Chapter 12: The Sweetheart's Dance
Every year, the town of Sheardin hosts a dance called the Sweetheart's Dance out by Tessa's cafe. Tessa's cafe happens to be situated by what is called "The Kissin' Tree". I suspect every town out this way has a similar dance and a similar tree but the story goes, whoever you go to the Sweetheart's Dance with will be your Sweetheart forever. So although I knew I'd be going with Wesley, it was still endearing and charming that he asked me.
The following morning as I was cleaning up the dishes, he asked me again to make sure I was awake enough to remember him asking. I teased him that I was waiting for Old Mr. Garrett to ask me before giving him a kiss and sending outside to work.
While the girls were napping and Catherine was in town seeing her gentleman, I joined him outside.
"So who is this man of Catherine's?" he asked.
"She wouldn't tell me everything but she said they met at the General Store." I said "He recognized her from church as my sister and introduced himself. Truth be told, it's John Garrett!"
"John Garrett? Old Mr. Garrett's younger son?" Wesley asked looking up.
"One and the same. She said they talked for some time just standing outside the store - only realized the time when Reverend Williams walked by and said hello." I went on.
"I never thought of John as the settling type - is it serious?" Wesley asked
"I am not certain." I confessed. "I don't think Catherine even knows yet. It's clear that she likes him and he seems interested - apparently got along wonderfully with Allen."
"Hmm, well I hope it turns out well, she seemed like a different person last night." Wesley said standing. "Now, why don't you go get cleaned up and head into town with the girls - you should pick out some fabric for a new dress."
"I have plenty of dresses Wesley." I said.
"But my sweetheart should have a new dress for the dance." he persisted. "Besides, I'm sure Tessa will have lots of gossip for you." he teased.
I laughed but agreed and got the girls together. We went to the general store and found it a flurry of activity thanks to the dance. I spotted Tessa outside and hurried over to her.
We walked inside together with the children and glanced around at all the people. "Busy today." I commented.
"Yes, everyone wants a new dress or just wants to look for a partner - makes people come into town more." Tessa replied watching Drew so he didn't break anything. Rachel was getting fidgety in the carriage so I let her out to play with Sarah and Drew.
Tessa leaned in and whispered pointing "That's Crazy Caulder - I don't know if you've met him."
"Which girl is that? She seems to be eyeing him..." I asked
"Her name is Tinsy or something like that. I don't think she's gonna have much luck with him." Tessa said giggling behind her hand. I laughed as well.
I discreetly pointed to another lady nearby, "Who's that? I don't believe I know her."
Tessa glanced and shook her head. "I can't say, don't think I've met her yet. Lots o' new people been comin' into town lately though. Place is growin' every day."
"Hmm, she doesn't look happy does she?" I asked looking at her once more.
"Maybe Billy won't ask her to the dance, he's an odd one - lives out past the Caulder place I think." Tessa said
"I don't remember a homestead out that way." I replied questioningly.
"He don't have a homestead - lives off the land, with a small lean-to to keep off the rain. He's right nice enough but kinda wild." Tessa said. I glanced over at Billy, he'd always been nice to me and everyone else. Very helpful when he could be.
I happened to turn and glance out the window and saw John and Catherine outside. I took Tessa's hand and moved toward the door which was open to let in air.
"Ms. Renfield, would you go to the Sweetheart's Dance with me?" John was asking, holding her hand tenderly.
Catherine smiled. "Of course John. Of course I will. I'd be delighted."
I turned to look at Tessa and grinned.
The dance was that weekend and I invited Catherine to pick out some new fabric as well if she'd like. We both spent the rest of the week working on our dresses.
Although Catherine had never been to such a dance before, she realized the dances were much like the sets we'd done in England and fell into step quickly.
Being one of the eldest couples dancing, Mr. Garrett and Widow Culpepper began the dance.
Allen and Helga were the final "couple" down the line and most everyone gushed over how cute they were. Allen blushed when he overheard the comments, then blushed more because he was blushing in front of Helga. At the tender age of about 7 - I imagine he doesn't want to be in a "couple".
We all danced quite a bit, barely stopping to take rests of even change positions.
John and Catherine were an adorable pairing, John looked on his very pregnant sister-in-law with a smile and Catherine even seemed to admire her baby belly. And she said she did not like small children....
Widow Culpepper was aglow at the dance and even Mr. Garrett laughed heartily through the dances. I could tell the two had become very attached. I wondered if they would ever marry - both were widowed and seemed to make each other happy.
As if my pondering reached his very ears, during one of the final dances, as Widow Culpepper and Mr. Garrett made their last dance down the line, he stopped and dropped to one knee! He pulled out a lovely ring!
And she said yes - of course she said yes! She's very spry for an older woman, jumping around like a school girl! Afterwards, the couples seemed to pair off, eager to celebrate their own love for each other after such an event. As I stood near Wesley, I couldn't help but spy Catherine and John swaying to music that wasn't playing - they were in their own lovers world.
As the evening was wrapping up, Jenna was overcome with pain. She grabbed her belly and reached out for someone to support her. I knew what was coming and sought out Mrs. Rheyer to fetch her husband (the doctor).
Doctor Rheyer has been called away from the dance so it was a time before he was brought back. Something about a laboring mother seems to send people into a panic because soon all the plates of food and all the thoughts of dancing were abandoned to focus entirely on poor Jenna.
Soon Doctor Rheyer came and with his wife and Tyson (Jenna's husband), they led Jenna away so that she wouldn't birth in the middle of the crowd....
End chapter 12
Chapter 13: Two Weddings...
There's something about Spring out here, love is in the air, babies are born. Remember Jenna Garrett - the one who started feeling those baby pains at the end of the Sweetheart's Dance? She had a healthy boy, his name is James. They are doing very well.
The weeks following the dance were a flurry of activity all over our little town. Being a second marriage for both Mr. Garrett and Widow Culpepper, they both wanted to have the ceremony quickly and quietly. Of course everyone in town was eager to attend said wedding so quiet wasn't really an option. Everyone jumped in to contribute though and the wedding of the season was upon us. Only John Garrett and Catherine seemed completely uninterested in the wedding (as they were entirely interested in each other).
Widow Culpepper opted for a pale blue dress and was a vision walking toward Mr. Garrett.
Reverend Williams performed a simple but lovely ceremony.
And everyone looked on as they exchanged rings, thrilled to see two of our older townfolk come together.
In the few years I've lived in this town, I don't think I've seen old Mr. Garrett so happy - we might yet have to stop calling him grumpy or grouchy.
Tessa volunteered her cafe once more for the reception that followed. While Widow Cul....well Mrs. Garrett and Mr. Garrett greeted and chatted with their guests, Tessa and I and a few others hurried across to the cafe to get the food set up. Wesley and Alexander had arranged the tables and chairs before the ceremony and most of the food was ready, just needed to be set out. We had everything ready just in time as Wesley called in to let me know the crowd was coming.
Everyone found their seats and as I looked around I was amazed to see how many had turned out for the event. There were several in attendance that I couldn't name if I had to.
The cake, which was made my Tessa of course, was delicious - although I don't know if there was enough for everyone. There were plenty of desserts however.
After the food was cleared away and everyone looked contented Mr. Garrett stood to make a little speech of thanks and love. I can't say I remember all of it but my ears perked up as he turned to look at John.
"And I have so many reasons to be thankful and joyed today, on my wedding day. I have the love of a wonderful woman," he took his wife's hand, "I have a wonderful new grandson" he said looking toward the carriage where baby James was sleeping. Then he looked toward John again, "And I have reason to understand that my other son, John, is goin' marry soon as well. I hope I will see you at HIS wedding!" he said raising his glass in toast.
I looked over at Catherine and saw her hiding her face behind her hand but I could see a smile under there and the deep hint of a blush. I looked over at John who couldn't take his eyes from her. I reached out for Wesley and squeezed his hand.
In the days following, I couldn't find Catherine, let alone get details from her about the engagement. The best I got was a confirmation that they were engaged. She left while I was busy with the girls and anytime I spotted her I was too busy to corner her for information. Finally I got her to sit down with me one morning and talk.
"You remember when John came over a couple weeks ago and we were out all day? I came back wet because of the rain?" Catherine asked.
"Yes of course." I replied.
"Well we went on a picnic out in the meadow near the church. John packed a picnic for us a surprise. Well I think Tessa mostly packed it but it was the thought." she said with a girlish smile. "The roses and flowers were everywhere and it was perfect."
"At first, neither of us seemed hungry. We couldn't stop looking at each other, let alone eat." Catherine continued
"Finally we had to eat of course. We laughed and made jokes and I could have stayed sitting there with him all day." Catherine said.
"I think you did." I said with a smile.
Catherine giggled - actually giggled and I laughed with her. "Well, after we ate, we talked and we said nothing and we kissed a bit, and just enjoyed the beautiful day. Then he told me he loved me and I melted into his arms. This wasn't like Allen's father..." she rarely spoke of him by name anymore. "This was real, I could feel it."
"The sun was starting to slowly set and I started to pack up. When I turned around he was on one knee holding out this ring to me and speaking so fast I couldn't understand him." Catherine said
"I said no." she added.
"What?" I asked startled.
"I said no...at first." she said with a grin. "I think I thought he wouldn't want the whole package - Allen and me...so I muttered something about that while he was still there on his knee and darkness descended. He never got up, just slowed down and said:
'Catherine Renfield - I love you and I love Allen. I want you both as part of my family. I know that you come with that little boy and I'm excited about that. I want to be his pa as much as I want to be your husband. So, since I'm still down here, I'm going to ask one more time....will you, Catherine, consent to be my wife?'
I couldn't refuse him then!" she gushed remembering the day.
"Why didn't you tell us?" I asked with a smile.
"It was so close to the other wedding, we did not want to take the shine from them." Catherine said with a smile. "Of course then John let it slip to Jenna who told Tyson who told Mr. Garrett. And then he told everyone." she said with a laugh. She didn't care that he may have taken her moment.
"Well I think it's wonderful. Congratulations!" I said taking her hand in mine and squeezing it. "Does this mean you're staying in Sheardin? I can't imagine John leaving..."
Catherine nodded. "Of course - this is home now." she said squeezing my hand back.
John and Catherine were as eager to get married as the last couple. I offered her my own wedding dress and she accepted it gratefully - she was in no mood to wait for something to be made or ordered. We had to make a few alterations but it fit her very well. They waited no more than a month to proceed with the wedding and once again I found myself in the church, surrounded by half the town.
I stood up with Catherine as her bridesmaid and beamed at her as she came down the aisle.
I was overcome with giddiness and clapped a bit as she approached. Wesley looked at me from across the church with a grin on his face. He knew how happy I was for my sister.
John's brother Tyson was his groomsman and we caught each others' eye as we watched them say their vows and John slid the ring on Catherine's finger.
I even saw Allen smiling as the ceremony concluded. I think he is happy to be staying and I know he adores John - a boy needs a man in his life.
Chapter 14: A Year and a Day
One of the wonderful things about living in this small western town is the society. We've been here for almost 5 years now and I can honestly say I prefer the people of Sheardin to the high society of home. I'm not sure Catherine entirely agrees with me, but she's very happily settled now so maybe she would. Throughout the year, the whole town comes together to celebrate holidays and events.
On Halloween, we have a costume party and everyone brings a little something to share.
This last Halloween, Rachel and Sarah were given a special shared award.
Crazy Caulder (who I have since learned is named Lance and is married though I've never met his wife - I don't think) even comes into town for most of these events. I don't think he's quite as crazy as everyone seems to think.
At Thanksgiving, Tessa hosts a Thanksgiving dinner at her cafe for anyone who wants to come. Again, everyone brings a little something - we seem to end up with a lot of pies every year but no one complains.
Everyone tends to make it out, what better way to spend Thanksgiving than with friends and neighbors.
At Christmas time, the Reverend and various men from town go find a large tree for the town and set it up. Throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas everyone adds candles, bells, strings of nuts and berries to to the tree so that by Christmas it's a beautiful, glowing tree. And once again, people come together even from the outskirts of town, dressed in everything from Christmas finery to every day clothes
And we gather to sing carols together.
On Easter, a few people go out and hide eggs and set up games in the meadow while the rest walk over from the church. The children enjoy the bulk of the games and hunts while we watch them laughing and chatting.
To celebrate the Fourth and Founder's Day, once again we go out to the meadow, this time to picnic together.
As ever, the children are usually running around before any of the adults have had a chance to finish eating but everyone keeps an eye on them together.
Tessa and Alex's boy Drew has become fast friends with Rachel and Sarah. They play together every chance they get, giving Tessa and I time to catch up.
As summer breaks into fall and temperature starts to fall, there's a bonfire under the stars to celebrate the change of seasons.
As the year passed, more families settled around Sheardin and soon the school was being expanded to accommodate the new students for those that sent their children.
It seems like yesterday I was holding them in my arms and snuggling their tiny bodies against me. Every year around their birthday I get emotional and can't believe they another year older. And this year, this year they are four years old. How can they be four years old?
Once again, we invited almost everyone we knew to help us celebrate their birthday.
You see Tessa holding the little baby - she and Alex had a sweet baby girl named Stacia just a few months ago.
Together, Wesley and I helped them blow out their candles and start another year in their (and our) lives.
Chapter 15: Changes
Another year, another birthday. Sarah and Rachel, now 5 years old, have grown into beautiful girls. They are no longer the awkward, stumbling toddlers.
In the last year, Catherine and John found out they were expecting and shocked the whole town when they had triplet girls! John sent Allen to fetch me during her delivery and she nearly passed away during it! The girls were all very small and a little sickly but Dr. Rheyer was always available. They've grown strong and healthy since the delivery. Catherine brings them over often so that we can help each other like she helped with the twins. She's taught Rachel how to paint - or at least the idea of it.
Wesley started working in the fields longer and more often. Sometimes I saw him walking off toward the creek and hauling back water. I tried asking what was keeping him so busy but most nights he came in too tired and fell asleep before he even ate supper.
Finally one day while the girls were at school, he took me out to the fields to show me the problem. "It hasn't rained in almost two months Lizzie, crops are dying and I've been trying to find water closer and I've carried water from the creek but it's not enough, not for everything."
"Oh Wesley! Why didn't you tell me sooner? I could have helped somehow." I asked looking around distressed, over a third of the field looked wilted or dead.
"There wasn't anything I could ask you to do but I want to try to keep at least the northern half going, for our own food at least. And I'll need your help with it."
So we worked together on what we had left. Eventually the drought would end and we could replant as necessary. It wasn't that we were personally poor, but with failing crops - the rest of the town would be suffering, the supply at the store would diminish. Wesley hauled more water from the creek for the well and the remaining crops while I weeded and worked on them to keep them alive.
In the evenings, we were both exhausted and fell into bed together. We fell asleep most nights as soon as the girls were in bed. But we managed to keep the romance alive as well.
A month passed and it still hadn't rained. I started feeling ill constantly. I blamed the water from the creek or the unease about the crops.
But it wasn't long before it became obvious that that wasn't the cause of my sickness. After four months with almost no rain, it finally did rain again - although it still wasn't enough to replant the rest of the field. As my pregnancy progressed, things improved and the well slowly filled up without as many creek runs. We weren't out of the danger yet but improvement was good. We took as many extra crops as we could into town to help those without as much luck. I continued to help in the field up until the last month, this time with no problems.
As I neared the end of my pregnancy, I was awoken in the middle of the night with sharp, familiar pains.
I love Wesley - I do, but you'd think since he'd done this before he'd have been a little calmer about it. He wasn't at first.
Of course neither was I.
He did finally calm down though - thankfully - because the panic was not helping.
I paced the house as the pains continued. Wesley stayed by me as much as I would let him. Wesley rushed the girls out of the house to school after they woke up. Several hours later, in the middle of the living room, the moment arrived. I know Wesley was hoping for a boy - as was I - but I gave birth to a darling little girl.
We named her Hannah.
Despite the desire for a boy, we were both completely in love as we held her close to us. There's always next time.