This is the second part to yesterday’s post. Yesterday, the focus was between Emily and Eva. Today, it’s between Emily and Isaac. I admit, I didn’t know if they’d ever work through this one, but they did later on. This was one of those situations where the characters wanted to go a certain way and I didn’t, but I went with my gut and let them lead the way. My original plan was for them to end up together instead of apart. You’ll see what I mean by apart below. Of course, they end up together. It’s a romance novel, though I hear there are some romance novels where the couples don’t end up together. In my opinion, romance novels should only end in a happy ending. I hate sad endings, regardless of the genre, and I make it a habit of going to the end of a book (if possible–with ebooks it isn’t as easy as paperbacks) to see if there’s a happy ending. If there isn’t, I don’t buy the book. Why would I waste an entire book on characters I develop an attachment for just to see them end up dead or miserable? I got better things to do with my time. (Just my philosophy as a reader.)
Enough rambling. Here’s my post for today… 😀
“I would have helped you in,” he said as he rounded the side of the buckboard.
“I see no reason to inconvenience you more than I already have,” she bitterly replied. Really, it took her getting into a showdown with the teacher to get him to talk to her? Suddenly, he wanted to be nice? The whole thing made her want to scream in disgust. “Just take me home.” Under her breath, she added, “If you think you can stand the thought of upsetting your father.”
He stopped and turned to face her. “What was that?”
“Nothing,” she snapped. “I just want to go home.”
With a guarded look in her direction, he turned to the task of getting the two horses hitched up to the buckboard wagon. When he got in next to her, he released the brake and urged the horses forward.
She stared off into the distance, not bothering to talk to Isaac. For all she cared, he could have Eva. The two were so wrapped up into doing what they thought was right and proper, they honestly deserved one another. Eva had her reputation as a good teacher to maintain, and he had his need to please his father to the point where he treated her so rudely for years. What a fool she’d been. Why did she want to be with someone like that?
She didn’t realize she was crying until he said, “Look, what happened back there isn’t worth crying about.”
Wiping her tears from her cheeks, she asked, “Don’t tell me what I have a right to cry or not cry about, Isaac.”
He blinked. “I’m not saying that you don’t have a right to cry.”
“No. I just meant…” He shrugged and focused on what was ahead of them. “I don’t know. I reckon I don’t see the point to it, that’s all. So you and Miss Connealy—”
“That’s Eva! Her name is Eva.”
“Her name is also Miss Connealy, just like your name is Miss Craftsman.”
“You never call me Miss Craftsman. Come to think of it, you never call me Emily either. In fact, before today, you had nothing to say to me at all, so what do you care? Just take me home and you’ll never have anything to do with me again.”
He opened his mouth to speak in a way that told her he was ready to argue the point but then closed it. After a tense moment that rivaled the one as awful as the one that occurred in the schoolhouse, he finally softly said, “You’re right. I’ve been rude to you.” He paused and then added, “I’m sorry.”
Surprised, she gave him a good look and tried to determine the sincerity in his words. He seemed like he meant what he said. Testing the waters, she asked, “Why have you been ignoring me?”
He took a deep breath but didn’t say anything. His gaze remained focused on the path ahead, and she gave up any hope of finding out why. Why would he tell her? He wouldn’t tell Elmer, her father wouldn’t tell her, and for sure, Dave Larson wouldn’t tell her why he refused to let his son talk to her. Apparently, everyone else was allowed to know this great mystery but her, and this had everything to do with her.
“Something happened between our parents a long time ago, and my pa hates your pa,” he replied, his voice low.
Startled that he actually told her, she couldn’t speak for half a minute. The answer was one she didn’t expect, either. “I don’t understand. What could my pa have done that was so bad your pa would hate him?”
“I don’t know the details. My ma told me that shortly before I was born, your pa kidnapped her.”
Emily’s face flushed with rage. “He wouldn’t do that! He’s a good man.”
“I’m telling you what my ma told me. If it makes you feel better, he realized that what he did was wrong and changed his mind. But ever since then, my pa hasn’t wanted anything to do with your pa. Why my pa has decided that includes me not talking to you, I don’t know.”
She blinked back her tears. She wanted to deny her father was capable of kidnapping someone, but then she recalled what her real mother had blurted out in front of her. Her real mother mentioned something about her father running off with another man’s wife. At the time, Emily couldn’t fully grasp the meaning. Now she could, and it had to do with Isaac’s mother. So this had to do with something that happened years ago, something she had no control over and something that had long since been buried in the past.
“What?” she asked, not bothering to look at him.
“I really am sorry.”
“Is it just me you can’t talk to or is it everyone in my family?”
Though he spoke the words softly, they hurt as if he’d yelled at her. If it was her father who upset Dave Larson, then why did Dave feel the need to punish her? What was it about her, specifically, that Dave didn’t like? “I didn’t do anything to your pa.”
“I know. It doesn’t make sense to me either.”
She sniffed back her tears. She’d spent too much time crying over this already. “Let’s just forget it. It’s all in the past. I’m not going back to school, so you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to avoid me anymore.”
He winced. “Do you have to say it like that?”
“Well, that’s how it was. I’d smile or find a way to be nice, but you always looked away as if I’d give you the plague. I understand now why you did it. You didn’t want to upset your pa. Fine. Don’t upset him. I don’t care.”
The last sentence was a lie. Her problem was she did care. She cared too much. And she hated that. She didn’t want to care. She wanted to be able to walk away from Isaac when he took her home and not give him another thought, but she knew she’d still want him.
“It’s not easy to go against something your father wants,” Isaac said. “If your father told you to avoid me, wouldn’t you?”
“My father wouldn’t do something like that. He doesn’t hold grudges.”
“But what if he did?”
With a frustrated sigh, he shook his head. “Pretend he did. Wouldn’t you want to obey him?”
“It’s pointless to obey someone when what they are asking you to do makes no sense. Sooner or later, you have to think for yourself. Ten years from now are you still going to be doing things just because your father told you to do them?”
“Alright. Fine. We’ve established the fact that you wouldn’t do what your father wanted.”
“And you’re going to keep on doing everything yours tells you to do,” she snapped, not caring for his curt tone.
His jaw clenched but he held back whatever retort she knew had to be burning on his tongue. Well, that was fine with her. She didn’t care to hear what he had to say. Soon enough she’d be home.
“It’s a good thing you don’t have to go by your pa’s place to take me home,” she remarked, clenching the seat of the buckboard in an effort to release some of her aggravation. First, Eva. Now, Isaac. Before the day was up, she might manage another fight with someone else since she seemed to be on a roll.
He pulled back the reins at the edge of her property and set the brake.
“What are you doing?” she demanded, glaring at him. “I won’t walk the rest of the way!”
“I’m not telling you to,” he said as he turned to face her. “Look, I already apologized, and if memory serves, I did that twice. And I’m talking to you now.”
“Because you’re forced to, Isaac. You weren’t going to take me home. I had to threaten to walk home, and your male pride refused to let me walk out of that schoolhouse alone. You were being watched and people would have spoken ill of you if you didn’t take me home.”
“I’m going to hear it tonight from my pa because I’m taking you home. You think it’s been easy for me to hold my tongue all these years? You think it’s been easy for me when you were sitting close by but knowing I can’t talk to you or else my nosy brother will tell my pa? Then I’ll be given the whole spiel about how looks aren’t everything and I need to focus on what’s on the inside that makes a woman beautiful instead of what’s on the surface.”
She gasped. Since when was it a crime to be good looking? She had no control over her looks, and even if she had, she’d do her best to look better than Eva Connealy! “So your father hates me because I’m better looking than women like Eva?”
“No. I think it’s because he knows I’m attracted to you.” His eyes grew wide and he quickly faced forward, as if realizing his mistake too late but he was unable to take the words back.
Her voice softening, she asked, “You’re attracted to me?”
He closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead.
“You can’t stop now, Isaac. You’ve already said too much.”
Groaning, he opened his eyes and looked at her. “I’ve said too much? Earlier, I wasn’t saying enough.” With a sigh, he continued, “Not that it makes a difference, but yes, I’m attracted to you. It’s hard to be in the same room with you and not talk to you. Sometimes I’m sitting at my desk and you’re all I can think about. But what difference does it make? It doesn’t change anything.”
“No, it doesn’t. Because no matter what I want, our parents won’t approve of the match. My pa doesn’t want me talking to you, and I’ve seen how tense your pa is whenever my family passes by yours when we’re in town. You can’t tell me your pa would be happy if he knew I wanted to be with you.”
Recalling her father’s words on Saturday, she grudgingly admitted, “No, he wouldn’t. He says when it comes to your family, the best thing to do is for us to keep our distance. He didn’t say anything about abducting your mother, but he did say what happened in the past is something he doesn’t want to think about. His exact words were that when it comes to Dave Larson, he learned to let sleeping dogs lie.”
“So there you have it.” Isaac shrugged and stared at the reins in his hands. “We’ll just let sleeping dogs lie.”
“You mean, that’s it?” Her heart beat frantically in her chest. Now that she knew how he felt, she couldn’t turn away from what might be their future. “You’re going to drop me off at my house and go on with your life as if I was never in it?”
“You were never really in it to begin with, Emily.”
Though he spoke tenderly, the words stung. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she said, “I was in it when we were younger. You used to come up to me and talk to me. When we were children, we’d play tag and hide and seek with our friends.”
“That was a long time ago.” His eyes met hers, and she noted the regret in them. “We can’t turn back the clock. We can’t undo anything that’s already happened, whether it be between our families or when I started avoiding you because that’s what I was told to do.”
“It’s not too late. We don’t have to let what happened in the past affect our future.”
He shook his head. “I can’t. I’m sorry, but I can’t.” Releasing the brake, he lifted the reins and urged the horses forward.
Once again, her eyes filled with tears and she cursed herself for ever caring about him. He now had power to hurt her, and she hated him for that. As he led the horses onto her property, she turned away from him so he couldn’t see her tears, and she prayed he didn’t hear her crying. She tried to stop the tears, but the more she attempted to restrain her emotions, the more they called out for attention. By the time he pulled the buckboard up to her house, she hurried off of it and ran into the house.