Underneath the Pines - Part 1 [MOVED]
Location: Edges of Kalispell
Timeline: July 1875
A figure garbed in a simple, white cotton dress, sauntered about on the edges of town. She paused every now and then to pluck a summer bloom from the earth and to adjust the violet bow at her cheek. She wore her bright auburn hair half-pinned beneath a straw hat to help keep the sun off her fair complexion. The day had been particularly warm, but not so uncomfortable that it could keep the girl inside.
Cecilia thought about the young she met, as she placed another wildflower in her new basket. She had been given the money to purchase a new basket, having told her father the supplies she had carried were too heavy and basket handle poorly fashioned. He cared little and provided for his daughter without question. As long as she continued to bake for him, Mr. Atwood was unconcerned.
Beneath a pine, the young lady came to rest. She spread a handkerchief at the base of the tree and sank to the ground to rest upon it, not wanting to dirty her simple gown. She produced a small paper fan and fanned herself with it, eyes closing partway as she enjoyed the little breeze on her skin. It was the perfect end to a beautiful day and a welcome beginning to a serene evening.
Emerging from town, on foot but leading his mule, Robert was in a good mood. It had actually been a profitable day. Most people wouldn't think it was much but he had just made himself a few dollars for once. His panning had netted him a few small bits of gold ore and he had parleyed that into some currency, less than twenty dollars but better than anything he'd done since he first arrived in the area. Of course only a few coins were now left in his pocket as he had then paid off some of his standing debt at the general store. Finally because he could for once, he had splurged and bought himself a bottle of some rather cheap whiskey at the saloon. He would keep it then in his cabin and imbibe a little each day or even use it to wash his hair, the alcohol did make the scalp feel better though if you got it in your eyes it stung like all hell. The bottle was now snug inside a small satchel hanging off the mule's saddle. Now he was heading home, that being his small cabin a few miles further and just off the road almost hidden behind a tree line.
He was deep in thought and almost missed spotting the young lady sitting up against a tree trunk off to the side. A second look to ascertain if the individual was injured or something and Robert suddenly recognized her! It was that girl who threw her basket during his encounter with the blacksmith's assistant. Cecilia...ummmm, At...something. He was too busy looking at her to commit her full name to memory. Even though it was a small town he was none too sure they'd ever see each other again. Yet there she was. Doing exactly what he had no idea but, yes, it definitely was Cecilia.
The late afternoon summer air was warm and heady. Though she fanned herself, Sissy could not stave off the lull that longed to over take her. If she didn't get to her feet and start moving once again, her eyes would fall shut. There was no telling the danger that might befall her, or embarrassment for that matter.
She inhaled deeply and closed her fan, tucking it back into her pocket. She focused her eyes on the scarlet and fushia Indian Paintbrush flowers that lined her basket. From her wrist she drew a length of white lace ribbon and tied it around the stems of the flowers.
Robert stopped dead in his tracks, his faithful mule then did too, it seldom was in any real hurry to get anywhere, a content plodder. Clearing his throat first, he then called out.
"Ah....Miss.....Cecilia! Are you alright?"
She was admiring the small bouquet she had fashioned when she heard her name. The voice was male but did not come from her father nor her brother. It was the young man whose behalf she had intervened upon about a week or so ago. She placed the bouquet back into her basket and rose to greet him.
"Mr. Cullen," she greeted him, "Yes, I am quite alright." She smoothed her skirts before stepping from the shade of the pine. "How lovely it is to see you again. Who is your friend?" Sissy smiled brightly at him, having thought of him a few times since making his acquaintance.
While he was glad nothing was wrong with her, her inquiry confused him for an instant.
"My friend?" he started then caught on when he glanced back to.............his mule?
Cecilia giggled at the confused splayed across Robert's face. She assumed he would know to whom she was referring.
"Your mule of course!" she answered before moving to close the gap between them.
"You mean Abercrombie here? I wouldn't exactly call Abercrombie a friend...more like an employee of sorts," Robert duly answered with a grin.
Suddenly he remembered his manners and removed his battered felt hat, "Nice ta be see'in you again too, lass."
Sissy studied the grey beast for a moment before finally asking "Is Abercrombie friendly?" She wondered if she might stroke his muzzle.
"He can snap at folk jest so ye know," Robert warned her honestly.
"Oh, well, perhaps it's best I leave Abercrombie alone then..." she said more to herself than to him. She would have liked to make friends with the handsome beast, but Robert would have to do.
The girl fiddled with the hem of her sleeve, working up the courage to invite him to keep her company. She smiled nervously before finally asking, "Are you and your employee busy this afternoon? Perhaps you'd like to join me?"
"Most of the afternoon's over," he observed wryly but quickly added, "I got time though.....and Abercrombie...he won't mind none."
"Evening then," Cecilia quickly corrected herself. Why did this man make her feel so foolish?
"We can take a walk if you like. Unless you'd rather sit under this tree with me and share some honey cakes?" Sissy smiled at him, hoping to convince him that she was worth more than a passing glance.
A walk or something tasty to eat? Now that wasn't a hard choice to make, Robert smiled.
"I've always been quite good at....sitting. And can hardly say 'no' to something sweet," he informed her...or for that matter, someone sweet.
Sissy smiled at that and stepped back over to the shady pine and lowered herself back to the ground. She patted the spot beside her indicating that he ought to sit with her.
"Umm, sure," he nodded then eased the mule over to another tree and wrapped the reins around a low hanging branch. The beast didn't have much ambition and would be fine there for awhile, he was confident.
"Does Abercrombie like apples?" she asked, glancing back at the mule. Perhaps if she charmed the mule she could charm Robert as well?
"I would think he does, most horses and mules do...or so I have heard," he nodded.
Though, what did it matter? Why did Cecilia care if this young man liked her or not? Sure he was handsome and his eyes breathtaking, but there was more to it. Robert Cullen has trouble written all over him.
Sissy lifted an apple from her basket as well as small cloth parcel. She unwrapped the parcel and offered him a piece of the sweet cake she had promised.
He took the apple with a quick "He sez thanks."
Then he gave it to the beast who chomped on it with zest. That taken care of Robert lowered himself down to sit next to her, but not too close, it would not do to be too forward, this was a proper lady. Glancing down at the cake, he swallowed then reached for a chunk of it with two fingers.
"Thankye", he nodded then bit into it, "Ohh, that is sooo good, miss." He finished it off next bite.
Cecilia giggled as she watched the mule crunch the apple. "I wonder if he likes sugar cubes?" she said, thoughtfully. If Robert cared to see her again, perhaps she would bring Abercrombie a few extra treats.
Robert shrugged, "Don't know, that I know he never had one."
The young woman nibbled at a piece of the honey cake herself. She smiled brightly when Robert complimented the baked goody. "It gladdens me that you should find my baking so delectable," she said, her eyes sparkling appreciatively.
Robert nodded though he did not know what 'delectable' meant for certain, he figured it was same as 'good' as she looked pleased.