Underneath the Pines - Part 2 [MOVED]
Location: Edges of Kalispell
Timeline: July 1875
"Tell me about yourself, Mr. Cullen?" she asked, offering him another treat.
"Don't mind if I do," the young man accepted without hesitation.
"First off, miss...I'd be fine if you just call me Robert or Bobby, not used to anyone callin' me mister and besides makes me sound so...old," he requested then ate a bite before continuing.
"Not from around here but then you knew that much....born in Ireland but me da and ma moved then to this country...New York. We were poor in Ireland, we were poor in the new world too," he smiled though it certainly wasn't a happy statement.
The girl silently nodded, understanding he was from a land she could barely imagine. She paused her nibbling, listening intently, even setting down her small piece of cake.
"I be sparin' ye all the grief of the rest 'cept my brother and me came on out to the frontier to make our fortune. He died though..." this time there was no smile, just a look of resignation, it served no use to mourn.
"On my own since then and pannin' fer gold in these hills...hopin' there really is something like 'luck of the Irish', I sure haven't seen it none," he was back to his usual happy go lucky self.
The pretty smile Sissy had been wearing quickly faded into a somber gaze. Her heart ached for him. How could someone so young have endured so many tragedies.
"Oh, Robert! How tragic!" she bemoaned, reaching out to him. She placed her hand on his and gave him a gentle squeeze. "I reckon you must be quite resourceful to have survived such adversities."
He glanced down at her hand and where she had placed it, surprised but it was certainly a pleasant one.
"I do what I have to, no other way for it ya know," he gave a little shrug.
"Yes, but, it's not fair, is it?" she frowned at him. She held him still, as if it might somehow make his life better. Though, it was only after another long moment that she realized she still touched him. Trying not to blush, she took back her hand and wrapped up the empty cloth and placed it back in the basket.
Sissy passed him another honey cake as if he might be half starved, "Here, sugar, have another!"
"Thankye....I don't want to eat all of yours though. But I will make this the last one," he took it and took a bite.
"I bake something new nearly everyday. You're more than welcome to all of my sweets." she teased.
All of them huh? Robert couldn't help but glance at her as his eyes mentally wandered up and down her feminine frame. Was she even aware her words could be taken quite differently by some men? Not him though...no, he wasn't even thinking about such things. Nope, just a friendly conversation was all. He needed to say something to get his mind off such thoughts!
As he chewed he now asked her, "So how 'bout you be tellin' me about yerself then, seems only fair don' it?"
It was the question she always dreaded. She always told the truth, yet twisted the story differently each time. Getting kicked out of school was not her proudest day.
He surely was curious.
"I grew up in the South. I was just a child when war broke out. I reckon it was best that way. Anyhow, Pa wanted a new life for us and moved us up here. There's five of us kids. But my younger siblings are back east attending boardin' school."
It was definitely the truth, just a few stories left out.
"South huh? Well, me da ...he fought in the war...in the Union army. He joined one of the New York Zouaves....those lads wore some real fancy uniforms - not just blue but bright red too...only time in his life he ever got to wear something fancy, da said," Robert smiled.
Cecilia nodded and added "My Pa didn't fight. He refused to leave my Ma and the rest of us kids behind." She left out the fact that she was sure money had something to do with it.
"So you finished yer schoolin' then? Did you like it?" he pursued the discussion, eager to learn more about this gal.
"Not exactly," she started, chewing her lower lip for a brief moment. "I was feelin' homesick. And it was decided I could probably obtain useful skills by comin' to Kalispell."
Half of that was true, but still she omitted the fact that she was expelled. She worried what people, Robert in particular, would think if they knew what had transpired to beget her expulsion.
Robert blinked, "Oh? This little place? So then....what useful skills did ye learn then, girl?" He doubted this small town had anything of value to teach a well to do young miss.
Cecilia smirked at him, "Well, you just ate some of it." She always had an affinity for cooking and baking, but there wasn't time for that in school.
"Oh, and ye couldn't learn that in a big city?" he still didn't get it but it was true she did not have baking skills if the rest of her recipes tasted as good as this one.
"I'm to learn how to ride a horse too one of these days," she added. Not that she looked forward to such task.
If Sissy learned anything, it was how to be more independent and resourceful than she could be in Virginia.
"Well, well, that could prove quite useful out here on the frontier then," he nodded approval, "I have learned just enough to stay on Abercrombie here but then he don't gallop about like some fool horse."
"Then you'll have to let me bring you some goodies so I can put these skills to better use," she grinned.
He smiled, "That'd be most generous of you but I don' imagine yer folks approvin' of you visitin' the likes a me."
"What makes you say that?" she frowned, shifting in her seat, "And what makes you think I'd listen if they forbid me?" She couldn't help the smirk that formed. Robert didn't know her well enough yet, but he would soon learn that Sissy had a mind of her own.
"Just a guess is all," the young man gave a bit of shrug, "I've been known to be wrong in me life though."
She eyed Abercrombie. He was lovely to look at and perhaps to even pet, but she wasn't sure about riding him or any other steed for that matter.
"It's a wonder that these beasts are so mild-mannered," she sighed, bringing her attention back to Robert.
"Oh they aren't....not always. Stubborn as a mule is not just a sayin' ye know? When they get in a foul mood, they can make a lotta noise and kick ye if ye ain't careful," he warned her.
She laughed at that and shook her head, "Well, I just mean that they don't actively attack us. I don't know about Abercrombie though..." Perhaps if she gave him a taste for sugar cubes, he would less likely be stubborn?
Robert huffed, "He won't attack ye none, trust me."
Sissy chuckled and shook her head, "I was only teasing!"
"I never did ask, but where were you headed this afternoon?"
"Home....I got me a small cabin a few miles outta town, nothin' fancy but it's gotta roof and is close ta water," he answered her.
"Well, then you ought to tell me what you fancy and I'll bring it over," she grinned. Her mind was already churning thoughts of what she might tempt him with.
Robert could actually fancy a lot of things....well including the young lady but he wasn't about to be bold enough to say that. He settled for a quick, "Really?"
Sissy blushed, realizing the impression she might be making. Her enthusiasm was something she always had difficulty quelling.
"Forgive me, Robert. I don't mean to be so forward. It's just not every day I meet someone as affable, let alone handsome, as you." She cast her gaze downward and bit her lower lip, feeling silly for opening her pie hole.
"Don't know what affable means but handsome...now that is certainly kind of ye, lass. And there is nothin' needed to forgive. I must be honest and admit yer not like anyone I've ever met...but in a good way you see," he hastened to make her feel better.
She bit back another apology as she explained, "It just means to be friendly and likable."
"I suppose I should take pride in that," she smiled. Cecilia didn't mind being unusual for it didn't do her any good to be just another cookie cutter, young woman. Not that she had that in her.
"Speakin' of forward...well, I happen ta think you are quite the pretty one yerself. I imagine the boys line up ta dance with you at those rich folk parties," he declared.
She glanced sideways at him and shook her head incredulously, "I'm a pushover. I add everyone to my dance card." She gave him a bit of a shrug, knowing full well she was too polite to ever turn anyone down.
"No favorites then huh?" he shrugged, it did not surprise him actually, she seemed very nice and accepting...well, she accepted him didn't she? And he was way below her station. As her parents would realize even if she did not.
Cecilia giggled, "Well sure, some are better dancers than others. I'm not fond of getting my toes smashed."
"Maybe if you ever get that bath I'll let you take me to a social," Sissy giggled.
He sniffed one of his armpits for a second then shrugged, "I don't know...it's hot work and I sweat then. Not everyone has their own bathtub I'll have ya know. Like I said though...I bathe...in the river."
"I hope you have a bar of soap at least!" she teased, pretending to wave away his stink. "Oh!" she exclaimed, it just dawning on her, "Do you know how to swim? I've never been in water deeper than my bathtub."
Robert blinked, interesting.