The Rains in Sest
By Dorothy Hutchinson
Date: March 25, 2016
Ch. 33

Tommy strolled through the woods, soaking up the earth aroma of misted moss. He’d been so busy with farm-work the past couple years that he’d almost forgotten how much he loved the forest. He wanted to linger there, but something he loved even more was waiting for him.
He emerged from the forest onto the road and was greeted by Karen’s smile.
No better greeting in the world.
He got back into the buggy and hugged her. “You know, my love, you didn’t actually answer my question.”
“Yes, yes, yes, Tommy, I’ll marry, marry, marry you. Satisfied?”
“More than satisfied.”
She kissed him lightly on the cheek. “We should be going though, or Clare will have to wait for us. This is her first solo trip away from home, and she’s fragile as glass. Some of the Middleton folk are a bit rough, as you well know.”
“Thanks for the reminder, dear; my jaw still bothers me sometimes.”
Karen snuggled against him on the seat. He could hardly believe she was going to be his wife. “I suppose we’ll have to live in my parents’ guest cabin for a couple years until I can get a stake together.”
“No, Tommy. Papa isn’t about to let that happen.”
“What can he do, if we’re married?”
“He’s my legal guardian, and he’s signed a contract for me to get married to some rich white man. The courts would nullify our marriage; rich white folk always get their way.”
Tommy’s stomach knotted. “What are you saying? That we’ll have to elope, that we’ll always be on the run?”
“We’ll find somewhere safe. Brighton City, maybe.”
He shook his head. “From what I’ve heard, people there don’t take too kindly to mixed couples. And neither of us has any money, and we won’t get any from our parents if we elope.”
“I’m sorry, Tommy, but I have to leave, with or without you. I’m not about to marry a man I don’t know the first thing about, especially not some rich white man who thinks he can buy me.”
He sighed. “Alright, I guess we’ll leave. How much time do we have to prepare?”
“Papa said I’m to be married in eight days, but he’s probably planning for us to leave a few days prior to that, just to get the wedding arrangements made. We won’t leave tomorrow, because of my birthday party, but he might leave any day after that.”
“Do you have a plan?”
“I think the best plan is for me to get really sick at the party, something that looks contagious and serious, so that Clare has to go home. I can’t just disappear on her while she’s here, or she’ll think I’ve abandoned her. I’m her only friend, she’s an only child and her parents basically ignore her, so I’m basically all she’s got in this world.”
“I thought you said she’s a pain in the ass.”
“She can be, sometimes, but she’s like a sister to me. Anyway, as soon as Clare goes home, we’ll leave in the middle of the night and make our way to Brighton City to spend some time with Clare.”
“It’s the first place your father will look.”
“Clare and I have a secret spot, and the two of us will be safe there for a short while. Then we’ll figure out what to do with our future.”
He rubbed his forehead. “Somehow, this isn’t how I envisioned it.”
“Me neither. We’ll be fugitives, and we won’t even be able to appear together in public—a young mixed couple will be too easy to spot.”
Tommy sighed. This was sounding worse by the minute.
She stroked his forehead. “Having second thoughts?”
Tommy shook his head. “What exactly did your father say?”
“I promised not to talk about it.”
Tommy bit his lip. Keeping secrets from each other was bound to lead to trouble in the long run.
“I know this isn’t fair to you, Tommy, but unless you can think of a better plan, I’m afraid this is the way it’s going to have to be.”
“I don’t know anything about the world beyond Middleton, so I don’t think I can come up with a better plan.”
“I know how you love it here, Tommy, and I’m dreadfully sorry I have to take you away from your home like this. Maybe we can find a small town like it in some other country.”
“Actually, I wouldn’t mind finding a secluded lake somewhere where we can build us a log cabin. Hunting and fishing, and a little garden, with the kids stuffing themselves on raspberries. How does that sound?”
Karen smiled. “Sounds wonderful, except for the stains on their clothes.”
“Hey, we’ll be in the middle of nowhere, so they won’t have to wear clothes.”
She laughed.
“We’ll have to have a boy first, so he can help me provide for the rest of the kids,” he said.
“No, we’ll have to have a girl first, to help me keep the rest in line.”
“Well, when the time comes, I guess we’ll have to flip for it.”
Karen smiled. “Somehow, dear, I don’t think that’s the way it works.”
“So I guess we’ll have to experiment until we figure out how it does work.”
She nodded. “All in the name of science, of course.”
They rode without stopping until they reached Sharper’s Creek, where they watered Dancer and filled their waterskins. While Dancer grazed, Tommy rigged up the canvas top for the buggy, in anticipation of the cloudburst Karen said was coming in the afternoon.
They continued down the road. As the sun neared its peak, the scattered farmhouses finally gave way to the tight cluster of houses on the outskirts of Middleton.
The stagecoach arrived soon after they got to the station. A smiling girl stepped off the stagecoach, her curly blonde hair dancing on her shoulders as she walked toward them. She seemed a little tall for fourteen, nearly as tall as Karen. Clare’s bright blue eyes strongly resembled Karen’s; they could easily pass for sisters.
Clare seemed beside herself with joy, clutching Karen like a bear does a honey jar. Karen introduced Clare to Tommy, but then Karen seemed to put Tommy out of her mind while the two girls chatted. And chatted. And chatted. Tommy had never heard anything like it. And the worst thing was he could only understand half the fancy words that came out of Clare’s mouth. Hearing her speak reminded him of a speech Middleton’s mayor had given awhile ago.
The three of them shopped in the general store for supplies, taking twice as long as it would have if Tommy had been by himself. And then the girls, without asking him, decided to search every nook and cranny of every other store in town.
Karen talked Clare into buying some sensible country shoes, and Clare handed them to Tommy to carry like he was her servant. By mid-afternoon, he was so loaded down with Clare’s boxes he had to walk back to the buggy to unload. Not that he minded, really, because it gave his ears a rest.
Tommy took his time unloading before returning to the girls. When he finally suggested they leave so they could get home before dark, Clare goggled at him and started to argue. She couldn’t seem to get it into her head that anyone might live outside of a town, let alone fifteen miles outside of a town.

Font size
Font color
Line spacing
Background color