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All persons here depicted, except public figures depicted as public figures in the background, are figments of my imagination and any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
Danielle didn't feel excited; being new wasn't -- pardon her -- very new for her. Tomorrow, she was going to be the new girl in class once again. She'd be starting the tenth grade in her ninth school. (They'd stayed in Fort Plain two years.)
The only fun in the day was singing. All the Osbornes could sing. When they gathered 'round for devotions before bedtime, the readings were short, the prayers were short -- Papa said that saying short prayers was the hardest lesson a preacher ever learned -- but they sang three hymns. Both mama and papa played the piano, and mama taught her children as they grew old enough to reach the pedals.
In the Whitesboro school, they not only sang "The Star Spangled Banner" every morning, they had music lessons three times a week. Miss Blair encouraged Nellie to sing as loudly as was comfortable for her. "It doesn't help the others, dear, to hear best the voices which are off pitch."
Frank Granger, who sat behind her, was one of those voices. Miss Blair suggested that he sing more quietly the first lesson. She repeated that, now a direct order, during the second week while they were singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." This was one of Nellie's favorite songs, and when they got to the "glory, glory, hallelujah" part, she leaned back at her desk and gave it the volume it deserved. Even when she felt a tug on her pigtail, she finished the verse.
"Frank Granger!" Miss Blair exclaimed. The singing died out and there were gasps and giggles behind her. She felt something wet against her shoulder. "Don't shake your head, Nellie," Miss Blair continued. "Mary go out to the pump with Nellie and help her rinse out her hair. Here's a comb. Nellie, if you want to go home and get another blouse after you've rinsed the ink out, you may. Frank, come up here and bend over the desk." Nellie had heard enough to figure out that Frank Granger had dipped her pigtail in his inkwell.
She bent over and held her pigtail in the stream of water that Mary pumped. When the water seemed to be running clear, Mary helped unbraid her pigtail and pumped more water to wash it more thoroughly. Nellie pumped for a minute while Mary rinsed her hands off, and then they undid the left pigtail and combed her hair. "Thanks," she told Mary, as she started towards home.
"You're welcome. I'm only sorry I missed seeing Frank whipped."
Back in class wearing a dress, Nellie exchanged desks with Frank. A boy came up to her at recess. "Sorry for what Frank did," he said. "Not as sorry as Frank will be after Papa hears about it, though. Frank isn't going to want to sit down for dinner for a week. Paul Granger."
"Nellie Osborne. I wish I could see it."
"I know. New Methody preacher's girl. No you don't. If you were in the woodshed with them, Papa would let him keep his pants up. Going to be splinters in him this way. Going to put your hair back in pigtails tomorrow?"
"Sure. It will be dry then, and Miss Blair has me sitting behind Frank. He won't touch my pigtails again."
"Well, do as you please. I think you look nice like that, though."
Girls played in one part of the school yard at recess, and boys played in another. When she wasn't in the girls' games, however, Paul often came over to talk to her. She had wanted so much to be invited into the games of tag; now, when she was, she felt a little disappointed that she wouldn't talk with Paul. Farm kids and town kids didn't get together much out of school. When they did, it was mostly at church-related events, and Paul was a Presbyterian.
Just before the weather turned cold, Paul invited her to his church's last picnic. "I'll have to ask," she said.
She asked Papa, praying silently first. She was a preacher's daughter and she knew what it meant to cross denominational lines. "He the guy who pulled your pigtails?" Papa asked.
"No." Mama had been able to get almost all the ink out of her blouse, but you could still see the stain if you looked hard. "That was his bratty brother. Paul is nice."
"You really want to go?"
"Yes." She'd do anything to go.
"Why not?" Mama asked. "I'll help her cook the food."
"You can go, then."
She packed enough food for Paul and herself -- and a little extra if somebody should come by. It turned out that Mrs. Granger had packed enough to feed Nellie as well as the Grangers. Paul's parents sent their children away while they and Nellie repacked the baskets. "So," said Mr. Granger, "you're the gal my sons like."
"Sons?" She couldn't deny that Paul liked her, but Frank was a brat.
"Never pulled the pigtails of a gal I didn't like." She left Mr. Granger with his opinion. She thought Frank was a brat, and he didn't think any better of her.
She cheered for Paul's team in the baseball game. Then, when it was over, they walked apart where nobody could hear them. Some couples moved out of sight, but they couldn't, of course. She was a preacher's daughter, and the story would be all over town as soon as the people got back from the picnic.
Over the winter, they talked during recess. She froze nearly solid standing there instead of running around like everybody else. There was an all-school Christmas party, and they talked there. She was even his partner in the square dances, not that partners danced together awfully much.
When spring came, Paul invited her to three picnics, and she invited him to two. But then planting season came along. Paul wasn't even in school. And, annual conference was looming. Her family would move again, and she'd never see Paul. "Can't you ask to stay here?" she begged Papa.
"It wouldn't do any good."
"The people like you."
"They'll like their new preacher. They're fine people."
On the last Sunday before Annual Conference, Paul showed up in the Methodist church. "Papa," Nellie said after the service was over, "this is Paul Granger."
"Presbyterian, aren't you?" Papa asked. "The talk of my powerful preaching must have reached far to bring you here." Paul, who was unused to Papa's humor, looked startled. Papa laughed and shook his hand.
Then Mama came up, "Paul, Nellie, I want to show you something." They walked out of church and in back of the parsonage until the people getting into their buggies were all out of sight. "Once upon a time," Mama said, "the man I loved was about to be reassigned. I knew I would never see him again. I said I would show you something. This is my back." And she walked away.
While she was still in sight, Paul pulled Nellie into a hug. It was her first kiss from a boy; it would be her last. She would never look at another boy, and she would never see Paul again. "Danielle," Paul said. "You're not a Nellie, you're Danielle. Danielle, I love you."
"Oh, Paul, I love you." And they kissed until the slamming of the kitchen door made them jump apart. They looked over there guiltily, but it was a minute before they saw it open again.
"Paul," mama said from the parsonage kitchen, "I think your family is looking for you. Nellie, get in here."
"Thanks, Mama," she said when she was in the kitchen.
"Parting is always sad."
"Were you really in love with a preacher who you never saw again?"
"He came back and married me. But I didn't know he would, I didn't even know he loved me back, until almost this time of the year."
"Do you think Papa will be reassigned here? The people like him."
"Your Papa is a traveling preacher, Nellie. He'll preach 'til the Good Lord takes him, and he'll travel just that long."
And they were assigned to Second Church, Rochester. It was a step up, with water coming into the kitchen from city pipes; but it was half the state away. She'd never see Paul again. They did write. But Paul didn't write as often as she would have liked.
"You know, dear," Mama said after Nellie came back from the mailbox dejected, "Paul is a nice boy. But there are plenty of nice boys in Rochester."
"I'll never forget him."
"I'm not suggesting that you do. I'm suggesting that you give some of the nice boys in your class, some of the nice boys in the youth group, a chance."
"You just hate him because he's a Presbyterian."
"I don't hate him. I just think you're making too much of this. There are nice girls in Whitesboro, too."
"Oh, Mama." She collapsed into her arms and cried. "Do you think he loves somebody else?"
"I don't think anything. I think you're sixteen, he's what? Seventeen?"
"He's eighteen by now. He's a man. And I'm almost seventeen. How old were you when you were married?"
"We're not talking about me. And you're not married."
"You were younger than I am when you fell in love."
"And the man I loved came back to marry me and took me away to where he lived."
"Oh Mama, do you think Paul will?"
"No. I think that Paul is living his own life, and there is a life right here for you to live." But it wasn't much of a life. There was school, and home chores, and she played the piano well enough by now that she was teaching eleven-year-old Ethel. Two of Ethel's schoolmates wanted lessons, and Mama let her keep a nickel a week out of the quarter apiece that the girls paid for their lessons.
Papa had been assigned to so many places, her only hope was that he would be assigned back close to Whitesboro again. Not to the church in Whitesboro, that was too much to ask, but somewhere close. When the bishop came to visit late that winter, she almost asked him if he would. Papa would whip her if she did, but that wasn't what kept her from doing it; she knew that bishops didn't make assignments for that sort of reason.
"Charles is in high school, isn't he?" the bishop asked at dinner. The Rochester school system was fancy with several elementary schools and a separate high school.
"Yes, sir," her brother said. "I'm in tenth grade."
"Well, I'm a preacher's son, and I know how new schools tear up your education." It couldn't have torn up the bishop's education that much. He was a college graduate, unlike Papa who had gone through the Course of Study. "I can't make any promises, of course. But I'll try to keep your father here for the next two years."
"Why thank you," Papa said.
"I can't make promises."
"Go to now," Papa quoted, "ye that say, 'today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain.' Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."
"Precisely," said the bishop. "And it's not only my life but a thousand other accidents. We may need you somewhere else, and that is in God's hands." So Nellie prayed that the church would need Papa close to Whitesboro, in Whitesboro -- if you're asking God for a miracle, Papa often said, why ask him for a small one? But, anyway, somewhere within buggy-ride distance.
It didn't happen, though. She delayed answering Paul's letter describing his graduation until after Annual Conference. Then she wrote: "Papa has been assigned to this church for a second year, and I think the members are happy. I know that PAPA is happy. I'm less happy."
He took even longer to reply than she had. "This means you will be able to finish school there. You should be happy. I'm happy for you." Well, she wasn't happy. And she was even less happy that he wrote such nonsense. Mama must be right; he'd found a girl in Whitesboro, and he wasn't interested in Nellie's living close to him.
She was despondent. Mama noticed. "Your life is just beginning, Nellie, don't act like it's over." Well, it might drag on for decades more, but what had made it meaningful was over.
Papa noticed. "Want to talk to me about it?" At her head shake, "Well you have a heavenly Father who already knows all about it. Take your worries to him."
Even Charlie noticed. "What are you dragging around like that for? You look so low you could fit under the rug."
Then, one day, there was a knock at the door. She answered it, looking at the visitor's boots. They were dirty. "Nellie?" he said. It was Paul's voice. It was Paul!
She must have shouted. Mama came running. "Get in here, immediately," she said.
"I'm not really dressed for a parlor," said Paul.
"That's all right. Come into the kitchen if you want to wash up. Tell us why you're here."
Paul explained that he had a job with the traction company, a hostler caring for the horses. "I'm a farm boy. I really know about machinery, but nobody in Rochester will give me a chance. But they'll believe a farm boy can feed horses and clean out the stables. The streetcars run sixteen hours a day, from five to nine, but each horse only work two four-hour shifts a day."
"I would hope so," said mama. "Those horses work hard."
"So, I have to be there when they start out and when they come back, but I only have to be in the barn twelve hours a day. I can ride any streetcar free on my breaks from work, but I don't really know my way around town yet."
"Well, when you're free -- decent hours, of course -- you're welcome here. If you worry about the parlor rug, come back by the kitchen door if you want."
"That's generous of you."
"Not really. Let's not pretend you're here to visit me. If you're in the kitchen, Nellie will be in the kitchen. And if she's in the kitchen, she can peel some potatoes or something."
"I can peel spuds," Paul said.
"No need. You're a guest. Now, if you'll excuse me...." She left, but eight-year-old Mary popped in. She stared at Paul.
"Mary, this is Paul Granger," Nellie said. "He used to live in Whitesboro. Now, mama wants me to peel potatoes. If you're going to be here, I'll get a knife for you, too."
"School work," Mary said and went out.
"Have a seat," Nellie said. She got out the tools and potatoes and sat across from him.
"I can peel spuds."
"You can talk. Tell me about your work. What did your papa say about your leaving the farm in the summertime?"
And they talked until the bell from the grandfather's clock in the parlor told him it was time to go back. They were alone most of that time, but Nellie's brothers and sisters made frequent trips in and out.
"Tell us about Paul," Mama said at supper.
"I'll tell Papa. You already know, and nobody gave us a minute's peace."
"What about Paul?" asked Papa.
"You remember Paul Granger. He's in Rochester. He's working for the streetcars, tending the horses. He came to see me." She told the whole story.
"He's sweet on her," Charlie said.
"You know, Charlie," Papa said, "at John's age," ten, "that is an appropriate way of teasing his playmates. At your age, it's a little silly. And never is it an appropriate thing to say about a guest in our house. Anyway, Nellie, are you happier now?"
"You know, Papa, you say we should thank God for answered prayers."
"Certainly. If somebody -- even little Mary -- does something you ask, you should say 'thank you.' How much more to the Creator of all?"
"And if He doesn't answer prayers? I mean, right now I'm grateful for what He didn't give me."
"Well, I've been told God always answers prayers. Sometimes the answer is 'no.'"
And, at devotions that night, she thanked God for not moving Papa the way she had asked.
With his free pass on the horsecars, Paul visited often. He even made it -- in his good suit and with boots cleaned -- to church some Sundays.
He couldn't come in the evenings, and she moved her piano lessons back to 4:00. Their original times had been set according to when school let out.
When he was visiting, Nellie did what cooking she could. Mama was only in the kitchen when she needed to be. Nellie couldn't say the same for her younger brothers and sisters. Every one of them drank more water, always getting it from the kitchen sink, than when he wasn't there. If they wanted to stay, Nellie put them to work, which most of them avoided. Twelve-year-old Ethel, though, seemed to have a pash on him. Nellie couldn't blame her, though she could be jealous. It was high time Ethel learned more kitchen chores, anyway.
Still, they wanted some privacy and weren't getting any. Then Paul asked if she could walk out with him. Papa said 'yes' on certain conditions. They walked around the neighborhood. Whenever they met somebody she knew, she introduced Paul. Papa might be strict on some things, but he was fair. When some of the women from church commented that a hostler for the streetcars was a poor match for a preacher's daughter who went to high school and taught piano, Papa replied "He's an honest boy doing honest work."
Well, Paul had graduated from high school and wanted to work up to a job as mechanic. She didn't tell the women that, though; they were Papa's congregation, Papa's responsibility. If he wanted to address their snobbery, that was his business.
Paul, when he was in the barns and his own job was done, did help out the mechanics repairing the horsecars. She knew that sparking her was interfering with that. When he was with her, or traveling back and forth, he couldn't help the mechanics. And, since his fellow hostlers took care of his horses when he was out of the barn, he took care of some of theirs other times in return.
Paul told her that all the hostlers got some time off. Since factory workers had to take the streetcars to work by 6:00, the cars had to start their trips at 5:00. So the hostlers' busiest time was between 4:00 and 5:00. Then, they could clean out the stalls for the horses which were gone. From 9:00 to 4:00 the same number of cars were on the street, with -- of course -- the same number of horses, drivers and conductors. Mostly, it was the same cars, but not the same workers or the same horses. In the morning, as in the evening, cars were taken off the routes as fewer people wanted rides. That meant that the hostlers had barely cleaned out the stalls in the morning when the first horses returned.
"The end of the day," said Paul, "is much easier. The last trip is over at 9:00, but cars are coming in all the time. We all help each other so that each of us can go to supper, and I don't think I've ever left the barn later than 9:30."
"You leave at 9:30 and get there at 4:00. That's worse than farm work! When do you sleep?"
"We all take a doze sometime in the day. Most of us sleep there; there's plenty of hay, of course. They tell me that we'll go back to our rooms in the winter. The rooming houses near the barns keep their stoves going all day."
"So, when you visit me, you are giving up on your sleep?"
"But I'd rather visit you. Besides, the conductors know me. I sleep on the cars, and they wake me when we're near the barns."
"And then we go walking; you must get awfully tired."
"But we walk slowly."
She had money from the lessons; Paul could ride the streetcars free. She asked Mama to allow her to ride the streetcars with him. Mama asked Papa and got his consent. So, once or twice a week, she would get on a horsecar and ride south. Paul would meet the car near the barns. Then they would ride to the end of the line, then all the way back to the north end of the line and back again.
She only needed to pay her two-cent fare when she got on the car. The conductors knew Paul, and came to know her. They might have objected to anyone else stretching the rules that way, but they looked kindly on the two of them. One of the conductors even made a point of taking the driver off the car with him at the end of the line to stretch their legs. She and Paul, who usually sat in back and talked quietly when others were on the car, had an opportunity to kiss and hug in absolute privacy.
When school started, they only could do this on Saturday. She knew better than to ask for permission on Sunday. Sometimes, though, Paul would stretch his time away from the barns to another round trip. She consoled herself that, if she were not seeing him as much as she wished, he had more time for rest and for helping the mechanics.
Then the weather turned bitter. "I don't want you riding the horsecars for hours in this weather," said Papa. "Paul is, of course, perfectly welcome to visit. Look, I can understand that he is busy at meal times. But you might want to offer him a sandwich and some hot tea when he comes."
But, winter was the time for more work in the barns. Customers who walked in the summertime rode the cars in the winter; snow clogged the tracks, and ice ruined the horses' footing. Since the horses worked harder, those who cared for them worked harder. Some days, Paul couldn't get away even to sleep -- the long trip to the parsonage was out of the question. The only good point was that Papa allowed Paul to visit Sunday when he missed Saturday.
Since Nellie couldn't spend pennies on the streetcars she saved up and schemed. When the weather finally turned warm, she had nearly a dollar saved up.
Paul came for a visit soon after Nellie got home from school Thursday. "Mrs. Osborne," he asked before Mama left the kitchen, "could Nellie come for a ride Saturday? I know Reverend Osborne said 'no,' but he blamed the bad weather."
"I'll have to ask him," Mama said.
"Oh, Paul," Nellie said when she'd left, "she said she would ask. If she does, Papa is sure to say 'yes.'"
"Well, I'll wait for the streetcar where it crosses Maple. If you're not on it, I'll ride back and come here."
Mama spoke to Papa alone, or as alone as the two of them could be in the house full of children. Papa's question to Nellie seemed off the main point. "You pay the fare each time, don't you?"
"Yes Papa. When I get on. Paul doesn't have to pay a fare, and the rules don't say you have to get off at the end of the line."
"Well, I know the conductors are Paul's friends. But I don't want you cheating the company. We are supposed to be good examples, not bad examples."
"Then I can go?" He hadn't actually said so, but the question was senseless if he were going to say 'no.'
"You can go. Be a good example." Which didn't quite say she shouldn't kiss Paul where people could see, but that might be what Papa was implying.
She was on the streetcar when Paul caught it. They had a seat to themselves in back, and the streetcar to themselves while it waited before starting back. It had been so long since Paul had kissed her. The kiss was so thrilling that she didn't hear the conductor get back on the car until he rang the bell. They moved around a short loop of track and started back. Soon, there were other people on the car with them. They had much to talk about, and she had longed all winter to have enough time to talk with Paul. Still, the drive through the city seemed an endless wait until they could be alone again. The last two passengers rode to the north end of the line. The conductor and driver got off with them, and she sank back into Paul's embrace.
That was their pattern for the Saturdays of the closing weeks of school: four long -- but never long enough -- conversations while they rode through the streets of Rochester, three short periods of kissing when they were alone at the end points. The last Saturday, she asked him, "Can you meet me Thursday? Same spot."
"Sure. Is school over?"
"It will be Thursday. Graduation is a week from tomorrow, but classes are over Wednesday."
Thursday, she greeted him shyly. When they got to the turn- around, however, she got up the courage to say, "Let's get off."
"I'm sure he'll let you on without paying again."
"That's not what I want. Let's get off."
They walked away from the streetcar. Soon, they came to a grove of trees. He took her in his arms and kissed her. She kissed him back until he heard the bell of the car clanging in the distance. "We'll have to run to make it."
"We can take the next one."
At that comment, he took her in his arms again. Some time later, she wasn't quite clear how long, he sank down to the ground. She lay on top of him and kissed even more passionately. They heard the bell of the next streetcar and hurried to catch it. She paid her fare as she always did. She had a dollar saved; that would pay for 25 days such as this one, not even counting the additional nickel she got each week. "Monday?" Paul asked before getting off. She had explained her schedule on the ride back: lessons Tuesdays and Wednesdays. She daren't ask to go out both Thursday and Friday.
And, although nobody in the family seemed to notice, she got back earlier. Two streetcars traveled that route; they had caught the second one.
Monday, while kissing her, he ran his hands over her hair again and again. Her left pigtail came undone. She took out the right one, too. "You have such beautiful hair," he said. "You should wear it down."
"You like its look?"
"Its look, its feel. You are beautiful." He kissed her again. His hands went through her hair and then down her back. He shouldn't put his hands on her seat, but it felt exciting when he did. Paul had marked where the sun was when they'd got to the grove, and he marked where it was when the bell rang for the second car. So, when the sun had traveled half that journey further, they walked back closer to the tracks. They were still in trees, if not so hidden, and they kissed until they heard the bell of the first streetcar.
When she got back home, she carefully brushed her hair. Charlie commented at supper. "Well," she said, "Paul likes it this way."
"And so do I," said Ethel.
"Well, I think you're putting on airs," said Charlie.
"We all have opinions," said Papa suddenly, "but it's Nellie's hair. She can wear it the way she likes as long as it's decent."
"She does it 'cause that Paul likes it."
"Charlie, you said that you didn't like it down. Nellie, did Paul say he didn't like it in pigtails?"
"Well, long ago he told me he liked it down." She wasn't going to say he'd pulled out the pigtail while running his hand through her hair. She'd never hear the end of that, and not only from Charlie.
"I'm not saying your sister would do something 'cause you said you'd like it," Papa continued. "But, Charlie, listen to that. Paul said he liked something; you said you didn't like something. If you really want somebody to cooperate, you might try saying what you like instead of what you don't like."
"I," said Charlie, "really like this chicken."
They all laughed. Mama blew Charlie a kiss, but she didn't pass him another piece of chicken.
Thursday, Paul was carrying a blanket and a picnic basket. "I should have brought the food," she said. He put his finger to his lips in a shushing manner.
"I didn't," he said when they were in the privacy of their grove, "actually have any food to bring. I just didn't want to be seen carrying only a blanket."
They sat on the blanket just as if it were a picnic anyway. Soon, they were lying on it side by side. They kissed hungrily while they hugged tight. Paul stroked her back when he wasn't combing his fingers through her hair.
When he finally pulled away, it was to say "I really like your hair. You are a beautiful woman." He kissed her hair once before kissing all over her face. His strokes moved from her back to her side. Finally the heel of his hand touched her breast. The both froze in place.
She relaxed first. "Oh, Nellie," he said, "Oh, Danielle." When he kissed her again, his hand cupped her breast fully. Now he leaned on one elbow with that hand in her hair; his other hand caressed the entire front of her body, from her belly to her breast. She'd never felt like this. The day had been barely warm before, but now her whole body was on fire. She held is face pressed tightly against her lips.
When he did break out of that grip, he kissed all over her face. His kisses went to her throat and then to her shoulders through the blouse. This was wonderful. She combed her fingers through his hair this time, and pulled him tighter to her when his kisses reached her breasts. What made her push him away was the sound of a clanging bell.
She grabbed the empty basket while he folded the blanket. The driver slowed the streetcar when the conductor saw them running after it. Both driver and conductor gave them fond smiles when they climbed aboard. They didn't kiss on the streetcar, but her hand never left his. "Monday," was his last word.
Monday, when he climbed on the car, Paul was carrying the blanket and basket again. Looking at the way he was carrying the basket, she could tell that it was empty. Could anyone else? "I have something to tell you," he said, "but let's wait until we're alone."
She tried to think of something else to talk about, but couldn't. "Tell me now," she asked.
"Can't you wait?"
"You know I've been helping some of the mechanics who fix the cars."
"They are willing to take me on as an apprentice."
"Paul! That's what you've wanted. That's delightful." Then she thought of something less delightful about it. "What is an apprentice's hours?"
"Same as a mechanic's. The barn is too busy when the cars are starting out, so we only have to get there at 7:00. 7:00 in the morning 'til 7:00 at night. But we get Sundays off. And 45 minutes for dinner."
"Papa is not going to let me go out riding the streetcars after 7:00. And 45 minutes is too little time for you to come to our house for dinner."
"Well, I could see you on Sunday, but I have another idea."
"Sunday? You could visit me -- only if you go to church first, though. And Mama would be happy to have you come for Sunday dinner. But that would mean only seeing each other when everybody else is around."
"Well, as I said, I have another idea. But we have to talk about it in private." This time, by the set of his jaw, she knew that he wasn't going to discuss it on the car even though there were fewer and fewer people on it. They got off at the end of he line, and walked towards their grove. He lay the blanket down but took her hand before she could sit on it.
"Danielle..." he began but didn't seem able to get any farther.
"Danielle, I won't get much better pay as an apprentice than I get as a hostler, but apprentices get to be journeyman mechanics after a few years. A journeyman mechanic is paid better and can work anywhere."
"I didn't say I wanted you to refuse this opportunity. I said I wanted to be with you; you want it, too. That doesn't make being an apprentice the wrong choice; you're too good a man to spend the rest of your life in a job you could get at 18 -- a job you could have done much younger. It's not the wrong choice, it's just that I don't like some of the consequences."
"Danielle, will you marry me?"
"Oh Paul!" She sank into his arms. He held her tightly, too tightly for his lips to reach hers. After a moment, he kissed her ear, her shoulder through the blouse, her neck. Finally, he eased her down on the blanket and lay beside her.
He kissed her face, forehead, ears, chin, nose, cheeks. When he finally reached her mouth, she pulled his head against her. She released him when she needed to breathe. He licked her lips while his hand held her breast. The licks felt so strange that her tongue ventured out to taste what he had done. When it touched his, a thrill shot though her.
"Oh, Darling," he said. His hands were on the buttons of her blouse.
"Let me," she said. She took off the blouse and set it aside. He kissed her all over her shoulders and kissed her breasts through the slip. When he pushed the shoulder straps of her slip down, she struggled up to her knees. She pulled in her stomach so the belt of the skirt would let the slip slide higher. Then she struggled each arm free. The slip fell to her waist.
"Oh, Nellie," he said, "oh, Danielle, oh, sweet." He rose on his own knees, and she pulled his head against her breasts. Soon, she was lying down again, and he was lying half on top of her kissing her everywhere and sucking on her nipples as if he were her baby.
A clanging bell roused both of them. Had all this happened while the streetcar was still at the turnaround? No. Looking at the shadows, it had to be the second car. Well, they could wait for the first one to come back.
As they relaxed, they sank back into a kiss. Paul's hands moved all over her upper body. He touched her breasts, and -- oh -- how she welcomed his touch on her breasts. But he touched her side and back too. Wanting to feel him as well, she moved a little away from him to unbutton his shirt. He loosened his belt to get the shirt off.
Then he kissed her again while hugging her. They were lying side by side and pressed skin-to-skin. It felt warm and delightful. His hand stroked her from her neck to her seat and back; his lips pressed against hers; his hairy chest pressed against her breasts. When he licked her lips again, she put her tongue out to meet his. Soon his tongue was inside her mouth.
When he broke that, he pushed himself down on the blanket while kissing lower on her torso. While he kissed all over her breasts, his stroking covered even more of her back. His hand was on her leg through skirt and slip. Then the strokes raised the skirt. Finally, his hand was under the slip as well. He touched the back of her bare leg above the top of her stocking.
"Oh, Nellie," he said. "Nellie, I love you."
"I love you, Paul."
He kissed her again, hugging her so tight that he breasts were crushed against his chest. When he relaxed, his hand stroked her breast. Then he was stroking the top of her bare leg. He trailed his fingers up to touch her through her drawers.
"Oh, Nellie," he said. "We shouldn't"
Well, they shouldn't be doing any of this. "Can you stop?"
"Nor me." Her hand went to his fly. He rolled away, unbuttoning and pushing down. He was wearing long Johns. He pushed them down.
It was the first adult organ she'd ever seen. The first of a human she'd seen since John had learned to wash himself five years before. It was larger than John's had been, of course, and sticking out and up. The end was glistening.
His trousers and long johns were still tangled about his knees. He managed to kneel between her legs. Her drawers were still on, and she couldn't take them off like this. She pushed them down a little.
He moved them aside, putting his hand right there, where no hand but hers had been since she learned to wipe herself as a toddler. "Danielle," he said, "sweet, sweet, Danielle." He moved over her and his organ touched her. Then his hand was back, parting her folds. Then the touch was even more intimate. She moved her legs to clasp his. When he pushed against her, she gasped. "I can't," he said, "I can't hurt you."
Well, he'd have to hurt her some time. They stayed there, looking into each other's eyes, until the bell of a streetcar startled them. She jumped a little. His reaction drove him in. "Oh!" she said. That had hurt, but the pain was over. Paul slowly continued inward.
She hugged him. He was holding himself up by his arms, so he couldn't hug her. He did, however, kiss her forehead. She kissed his shoulder. She held him tight against her and rubbed her cheek on his neck. "Does it hurt?" he asked.
"Not any more."
Whatever that meant, the answer was clear. "Yes."
Slowly he moved back and then into her again. He repeated that, moving more rapidly each time. It was hurting a little, now, but not much. "Oh, Nellie!" he said. With his face looking pained, he thrust hard against her. She felt him throbbing where she had never felt anything before this day.
He dropped onto her. She hugged him, welcoming the closeness and the weight. The bell was clanging loudly now, and for an awfully long time. They couldn't make that streetcar, though. She, for one, didn't want to.
Sometime afterwards, he rolled over on the blanket. This time, she could be the one doing the kissing. She covered his face with kisses, then his chest. Finally she dropped back. "Love," he said. "I love Danielle."
"And I love Paul." She did. She didn't regret what they had done -- well, not much. But her skirt and slip were all bunched around her. Her drawers were knotted uncomfortably and there was something oozing down there as if the moon were in a different phase.
He got out a handkerchief and dabbed between her legs. She winced at the touch. "Poor darling," he said. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
"I know." She got her drawers and her slip back where they belonged. She rose to her feet to loosen her skirt and put on the blouse again. Finally, she was as completely dressed as she could be without the aid of a glass. Paul turned his back to finish his own dressing.
"It's still chilly in the mornings," he said, apparently about the long johns. They lay back down to do a little more kissing, but they were back to the line before the next streetcar came. They sat and talked on the streetcar, behaving very respectably, until Paul had to get off.
Where the time had gone, Nellie couldn't tell, but the sun was far west when she got off the horsecar on the corner. She stopped off at the church. She would tell her parents about the engagement at the same time. Luckily, Papa was alone. "Please come home as early as you can," she asked him. "There is something I want to tell both you and mama at the same time."
"Give me a moment."
"You don't have to come now."
"It is not that long until supper."
"There is something Nellie wants to talk about to the two of us," Papa told Mama when they got to the kitchen.
"Very well. Give me a moment. Somebody came home late with her chores undone."
"I'm sorry, Mama," Nellie said.
"Let's go out back." They walked over to the lot behind the church and Mama looked a question at her.
"Mama, Papa, Paul asked me to marry him."
"And," Papa asked, "did you tell him he would have to ask your father?" Mama never criticized Papa, but she did look annoyed at this joke.
Truly, she hadn't told Paul anything. What they'd done was acceptance enough, but her lips were sealed about that. "I told him that I would. Paul has been taken on as an apprentice mechanic at the traction company."
"And," Papa asked, "where can you live?" She hadn't asked that question. Somehow, they had spent all that time together without discussing anything.
"There are respectable rooming houses out by the barns for married couples," Mama said. Where had she learned that? "It won't be like this parsonage, but neither of them are particularly spoiled."
"And," Papa continued, "did you make his apprenticeship a condition on your acceptance?"
"No Papa, he told me before he proposed."
"That's all right then. I don't want my daughter acting like a gold digger. There is nothing wrong with a boy's looking at how he could support a wife before proposing -- a man, really. That's part of being a man."
"His proposal was as much as a surprise to me as it was to you."
"Maybe more of a surprise, dear," Mama said, "Dan, why don't you go in and wash up?" When he did, she turned to Nellie. "It's fine that you said 'yes' to the wedding, daughter mine. I can't approve of your saying 'yes' to other things."
"That's for after the wedding."
"But...." How did she know?
"Not another word. I just hope your sisters don't guess."
The End Danielle 1902 Uther Pendragon email@example.com 2004/06/16 Thanks to Denny for editing this. For another story of another couple in another century: "Honey Bee" This story is indexed under: Young Love The index to almost all my stories is: Index to Uther Pendragon's website