Caroline in the Old West
Caroline Duffy sat by the light of her oil lamp, drawing little pictures of people and animals with her quill pen, dipping it in the inkwell periodically. Her interest in creating these little ‘doodles’ often got her in trouble, especially with her parents.
It wasn’t considered proper for a young woman to be drawing pictures like a child when she should be focusing on her standard duties, such as cooking, sewing, and cleaning. She had to steal time for her passion at night, by the inadequate light of her kerosene lantern.
“Caroline!” her mother whispered sternly, “Why are you doodling when you know it’s time to sleep?”
“Because, Momma,” Caroline huffed, “It’s the only time when I can.”
“Such foolishness!” her mother spat. “Caroline, no man will want to marry you if you can’t stay focused on what’s important! You’re starting to get a reputation!” Caroline just sighed.
“Sweetie, listen to me,” her mother tried a new approach. “You’re 20 years old now. You should have been married by now. You’re not getting any younger! But, the rumors around town are that you won’t do the duties of a wife! No man will marry you if you can’t take care of him!”
“I know, Momma, I just feel this need, like, I have to do this. I have to get it out of my mind and on the paper or I’ll just-”
“Margaret?” Caroline’s father called out. “Is she up again?”
Worriedly, her mom looked toward the voice of her husband. “It’s ok Fred, she’s just going back to sleep.”
“Confounded child,” he could be heard mumbling. “Head always in the clouds.”
Margaret shook her head disappointedly. “Just turn down the lamp and go to sleep now.”
Richard Karinsky arrived in town early that morning. Earlier than anyone had expected. When the old schoolmarm had died 2 weeks prior, the kids had been without a teacher, therefore, no school. When they telegraphed and asked for a replacement teacher, they weren’t exactly expecting a man. It was near unheard of for a man to be a teacher. Maybe not so unheard of in the bigger towns, but this was a very small town.
The residents watched him with curiosity as he rode down the main street, heading for the little house to the right of the school. His new home. He unpacked his few belongings and familiarized himself with the one room schoolhouse, then headed back into town for a few supplies.
He walked into the general store, his list of needs in hand as he approached the counter where an older woman stood watching him.
“Good morning,” he greeted her politely, tipping his hat.
Her response was cheerful, but guarded. “Mornin’.”
He cleared his throat, beginning to read from his list of needs, “I need a jar lamp oil, a couple of ten inch wicks-”
“Are you the new school teacher?” she asked, interrupting him.
He looked up from his paper. “Yes, Ma’am.”
“You’re a man,” she stated the obvious.
He chuckled. “Yes, Ma’am.”
Her eyes narrowed on him. “I’ve never seen a man teacher.”
“We’re rare,” he admitted with a nod.
“Hmmm,” she muttered, looking him over for a moment. “Well,” she said as she reached for the paper in his hand, “Welcome to Peshtigo. Let’s have a look at your list, then.”
She immediately went to work filling the order as the other patrons stared at the new man in town. He smiled awkwardly, keeping to himself as he thumbed through the new Sears and Roebuck catalog, just to give himself something to do while he waited.
With the list filled and the items paid for, he left the store and started back toward his new home. That’s when he saw her. Her red hair instantly caught his attention, and he watched her as she neared, accompanied by an older, plumper woman.
He realized he was staring when the beautiful redhead looked at him briefly and smiled. He returned the gesture before she disappeared into the store, briefly entertaining the thought of following her, but he quickly decided against it. To follow her, he would be dangerously close to breaking the code of ethics set forth for schoolteachers. Besides, he had far too much work to do.
He thought of her all the way home, and while he put away his newly purchased supplies.
Her copper hair. Her bright smile. She looked to be in her 20’s, if not, then near 20. He wondered if she was married, if she was spoken for or arranged. How could she not be? Her beauty was unparalleled.
Never one to believe in love at first sight, never one to be turned by a pretty face, it surprised him that he was so instantly drawn to her.
Caroline stared absently out the window of the general store, ignoring her mother and the store owner’s wife, Mrs. Spadaro, as they gossiped.
Gossip seemed to be the highlight of her mother’s week, but Caroline couldn’t care less… until he was mentioned. The new schoolteacher, that’s who the tall, blonde stranger was, and her ears perked up as she tuned in to the conversation. Not much was said, maybe cause not much was known, but Mrs. Spadaro said he seemed like a nice young man.
“And handsome,” Caroline admitted under her breath.
She blushed slightly at getting caught. “Nothing, Mrs. Spadaro.”
“You know, Annie is in the back with Del, if you wanted to go see them.”
Seeing them was sure to be more fun than listening to her mom chirp on about all the townspeople, but knowing those two, they were busy doing something she shouldn’t be interrupting.
“That’s ok, Mrs. Spadaro. I’ll talk to her later.”
Annie Spadaro was Caroline’s only friend. They literally grew up together, Caroline’s home only a stone’s throw away, and they remained close friends throughout school and beyond.
Annie married Del Cassidy of ‘Cassidy Saw Mills’ as soon as she turned 18, after Del was told by his family not to court ‘that Caroline Duffy girl’.
Del had been the only man to show any interest in her, until his family forbade him to. That’s really when the rumors started that Caroline would be a poor wife. It didn’t matter to her as much as it did to her parents; she didn’t necessarily want to get married.
When Caroline and her mother got home from their trip to the general store, Caroline immediately ran for her pen, ink, and paper.
“Caroline!” her mother scolded.
“I just wanna draw one quick thing Momma!” she pleaded.
“Fine,” Margaret sighed. “But hurry up! And don’t let your Pa catch you.”
Caroline beamed. “Thanks Momma. I won’t.”
She wanted to draw him, before his image left her brain and she couldn’t remember his features. Her heart was beating strangely, like she’d never felt before, and she hurriedly put his likeness on the paper. After she finished, she joined her mother in the kitchen, just as her father walked in.
“Caroline? In the kitchen?” he asked, surprised. “Maybe there’s hope for her yet!”
Caroline smiled sheepishly, a glint of shame in her eyes as she helped her mother finish with supper.
Richard rang the school bell, standing patiently at the door as the children filed into the classroom. With the last student inside, he shut the door and headed to the front of the class.
“I’m your new teacher,” he began, “As I’m sure you know. My name is Mr. Karinsky, but the younger children may call me Mr. K.” He sat on the edge of his desk, continuing to address the wide-eyed students. “We will start today by getting to know each other a little bit.”
The children looked around at each other, confused by the new teacher’s conduct. Their last teacher was old and bitter, and only spoke when she was yelling, really. She didn’t care to know much about them, or share anything about herself.
“A lot of you have probably never seen or even heard of a male teacher before. Well, we are rare. There aren’t too many men who want a career in teaching, but I did from a very early age. I showed a lot of promise in school, and instead of my father encouraging me to become a cattle farmer, he encouraged me to learn more. Study harder. Study art and academics.”
“I’ve been teaching in the east for the last year,” he continued, “As a substitute mostly, so this is my first permanent teaching assignment. Now, would anyone like to ask any questions?”
They all sat frozen, then one hand was slowly raised, then another. He smiled.
“When I point to you, stand and tell me your name, then you may ask your question,” he instructed, pointing at the first child who raised her hand.
She stood slowly and straightened her dress. “Sir, I am Melissa.”
“Nice to meet you Melissa.”
She beamed. “Are you married?”
“No, Melissa, I’m not married.” He then turned to the next raised hand and gestured for him to stand and ask his question.
“Where are you from?” the older boy asked.
The children ‘ooo-ed’ and ‘ahh-ed’, and Richard tapped his pointer on the desk to regain their attention.
“Settle class,” he stated calmly, but with authority.
He was unlike any teacher they had ever known. He wasn’t mean, or bitter, or nasty, but he still demanded a certain respect.
He answered questions and got to know a little about each child, then, he introduced art. They never had that before. They were allowed to draw when their assignments were done, but their old teacher never taught it, or talked about it, or encouraged it.
When class was over, the children were actually disappointed.
“Tomorrow,” he told them, “We will start on a lesson plan. And the lesson plan will include art. Class dismissed.”
The children went home and excitedly told their parents all about their new teacher. Before long, he was the talk of the town. Everyone wanted to know more about this man, this teacher who sparked such an interest in school and learning… especially Caroline.
It had been more than a week by the time Richard saw her again. The redhead that invaded his dreams almost nightly.
He went to the general store for supplies, and there she was. Looking disinterested in the activity around her… until he walked in.
She suddenly tensed, inadvertently staring. She forced her eyes to the floor, turning red from embarrassment when Richard’s eyes met hers. His eyes lingered on her for a moment before he turned his attention to Mrs. Spadaro.
“Hello, Mrs. Spadaro.”
“Hello, Mr. Karinsky,” she greeted him warmly, “What can I get for you today?”
He handed her his list and she went to work filling the order.
Margaret watched him for a moment, and Caroline could sense what her mother was thinking.
“Mr. Karinsky,” Margaret finally spoke up, catching his attention.
“Yes Ma’am?” he replied cordially.
“Margaret Duffy,” she introduced herself.
“A pleasure,” he said, bowing slightly and tipping his hat.
“And this is my daughter,” she signaled for Caroline to join them. “Miss Caroline Duffy.”
Caroline continued to stare at the floor, partially because that’s what ‘good girls’ did, partially because she could not bring herself to look him in the eyes. She didn’t know why, but he made her nervous.
Richard stepped closer and took her hand, kissing the knuckles like a true gentleman. “Miss Duffy,” he addressed her properly, “Also a pleasure.”
His touch made her head spin, and she jerked her hand back purely by reflex.
“Caroline!” Margaret scolded her daughter in a whisper.
“It’s alright Ma’am,” he covered for her, “My hands are a bit cold.”
He caught just a glimpse of her eyes as she peeked up at him before her eyes turned downcast once again.
With his items bagged and paid for, he tipped his hat and left as Caroline sat watching from the window.
“Caroline,” her mother reprimanded, “You should be nice to him! He could be your last hope!”
“You listen to me now,” Margaret demanded sternly. “He’s new here. Maybe he hasn’t heard the rumors. If you shape up, do what’s expected of you, maybe he’ll show interest in you!”
Caroline rolled her eyes and groaned. “He doesn’t wanna marry me, Momma.”
She sighed deeply in response to her daughter’s words. “You don’t want to get married, do you?”
Caroline shrugged, her tone uncertain. “Well, eventually, I guess.”
“The longer you wait the worst the prospects! You’ll get stuck with a man who treats you poorly! I’ve seen it happen! I’m worried about you sweetie,” she added sadly.
“Well, don’t worry Momma. I’m fine.”
“Now, maybe. Later…” The rest of the sentence went unsaid.
Richard was deep in thought as he walked to his house. Caroline. The beautiful redhead had a name, and it was as beautiful as she was. He smiled as he remembered how she pulled away from his touch. She was not repulsed, he was fairly certain of that. His heart raced at the other possibility for her actions.
She felt something for him.
Soon rumors were spread all over town… the schoolteacher had an interest in Caroline Duffy. Richard didn’t mind the rumors, cause they were true, but Caroline didn’t believe them. It wasn’t possible that he could like her. She could offer him nothing.
A few days later, as Richard headed for town, secretly hoping to run into Caroline, he instead ran into one of his older pupils.
“Hello, Mr. Karinsky!”
“Hello, Jonathan,” he returned with a polite smile. “Enjoying your Saturday?”
“Yes, Sir,” he answered exuberantly.
“Can I, um, ask you something Sir?” the boy asked hesitantly.
Richard nodded. “Of course.”
“You’re not interested in Miss Caroline Duffy, are you?”
“Well, Jonathan,” he explained to his student, “That question really isn’t appropriate.”
“I’m sorry, Sir,” he apologized as he hung his head.
“It’s just, well, you’ve heard the stories about her, right? I mean, she’s nice and all, I guess, but she would make a lousy wife. No one wants to marry her. They say she’s gonna die a spinster.”
“Thank you, Jonathan. I’ll keep that in mind.” Richard wasn’t about to have such a conversation with a child, so he dropped it the best he could.
“You’re welcome, Sir. See you Monday!” With that he ran off, leaving Richard with a lot to think about.
He’d heard the rumors, but he was no stranger to cruel tittle-tattle. Many a yarn was spread about him, especially because he wanted to become a schoolteacher, a profession that was usually seen as a woman’s profession.
He didn’t like the rumors spread about him, and he was sure Caroline didn’t like the rumors spread about her, either. He wandered into the general store, his mind obviously elsewhere.
“Hello, Mr. Karinsky!”
Annie’s voice snapped him back to the present. “Hello, Mrs. Cassidy,” he greeted her. “Where’s your mother?”
“Taking a break. Something I can help you with?”
“Hmmm?” he asked, his thoughts drifting again.
She gave him a sideways glance, her eyes narrowing. “You’re interested in Miss Duffy, aren’t you?”
Richard scowled. “The rumors really do fly in this town, don’t they?”
She chuckled at the understatement. “Yeah, they sure do.”
“Are you also going to warn me about how horrible a wife she would be?” he asked bitterly.
Annie immediately was on the defensive. “Who told you that?” she asked, knowing it could have come from anyone. The rumor was well known around town.
“Doesn’t matter,” he mumbled in response.
“Well, rest assured, I’m not going to tell you that.”
He raised his eyebrow with interest. “You’re not, huh?”
“No. I’m not. Caroline is my dear friend. She’s not what everyone says she is.”
Her comment intrigued him. “So, then, what is she?”
“Well,” Annie chose her words carefully, “I can tell you what she’s not.”
“Ok…” he trailed off, encouraging her to continue.
“She’s not someone who would make a bad wife.”
Richard nodded just once. “I see.”
She looked at him skeptically. “Do you?”
“Pardon?” he asked, wondering just what she meant by that.
“Nothing,” she muttered, shaking her head.
There was a pause before he responded, with a humming noise that indicated he understood what she was getting at. She was telling him, in so many words, to court Caroline and take her as a wife.
“Tell your mother I stopped in to say hello, will you?” he ended their conversation, turning to leave.
Almost a week had passed and the town was all a twitter about the upcoming dance. Richard was reluctant to go at first, but Caroline was sure to be there. That was his only reason for going.
Caroline didn’t want to go. She was always left standing alone, off to the side as others had fun. She was far more interested in staying home and doodling, but her mother refused to allow it, ordering her daughter to go.
She took her usual spot in the back and watched as everyone mingled and danced, having fun. Then, he entered.
She forced herself not to stare, which proved difficult, but then, it turned impossible, for there he was, in front of her.
“Good evening, Miss Duffy,” Richard said softly, alerting her to his presence.
“Good evening, Mr. Karinsky,” she replied properly.
“I hope this evening finds you well.”
“Yes, thank you.” She felt like she was going to be sick. Her stomach felt like a hundred butterflies were fluttering about inside her, begging to get out.
Richard noticed her nervousness and hid a smile. “Warm in here.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “A touch warm.”
“I could, get you something to drink?” His words sounded like something between a question and a statement, but Caroline declined none-the-less.
“How very kind, but no thank you.”
Caroline’s mother saw the handsome schoolteacher talking to her daughter and rushed to her side, not wanting Caroline to say something to scare him away. She wanted this man for her son-in-law.
“Good evening, Mr. Karinsky!” Margaret chirped cheerfully, standing very near her daughter.
“Good evening, Mrs. Duffy,” he said with a polite bow.
“A wonderful night for a dance, wouldn’t you say?” she asked him excitedly.
“Yes,” he smiled. “It is.”
“Do you dance, Mr. Karinsky?”
“I’m afraid not well, but I do know how.”
“Wonderful! You should be out there dancing then! Having fun!”
“Yes, I would, but was in need of a dancing partner.” He looked over at Caroline and Margaret nearly leapt out of her skin.
“She would love to!” she announced enthusiastically, then regained her composure. “I mean, she would be honored, I’m sure.”
Richard smiled at Margaret, then turned to Caroline. “Would you care to dance?”
“I don’t really know how.” She was trying desperately to bow out, but Richard wasn’t easily discouraged.
“I don’t either,” he assured her. “We'll learn together” As he held out his arm she reluctantly took it, placing her hand on his forearm. As was proper.
He led her out to the dance floor and they clumsily got into position, their bodies locked, holding each other at arm’s length. The slight physical contact made Caroline uneasy, but so did being in his presence.
Then they danced. And danced. And danced. Awkwardly at first, but slowly catching a mutual rhythm. All eyes seemed to be on them and the attention made Richard a bit uncomfortable. He could sense Caroline was as well.
After several dances, Richard returned Caroline to her mother.
“Thank you for dancing with me,” he said softly, kissing the knuckles on her hand.
Caroline simply nodded as she avoided eye contact. When he walked away, she looked up to watch him leave, her mother chattering on about blowing her chance at marriage.
She saw him approach her father, and eyed them suspiciously as they engaged in conversation. Then, her father shook Richard’s hand enthusiastically and led him to the band at the front of the room.
Fred said something to one of the band members and the band stopped playing, then her father clapped his hands in order to get the room’s attention.
“Please, I have an announcement!”
When everyone had quieted down, their attention on him, he shared his news. “Mr. Karinsky, our wonderful new schoolteacher has just asked permission to court my daughter! Miss Caroline Duffy!”
Murmurs could be heard from the crowd as well as gasps of delight, but Caroline just stood numb. Her mother hugged her excitedly, but Caroline showed no signs of happiness. Instead, she looked like she was going to be ill.
Richard was nervous as he made his way to Caroline’s. It was to be their first date, and as was customary, her mother would be accompanying them.
That knowledge only helped settle Caroline's nerves a little. She would still have to see him. Talk with him. Her heart fluttered and she audibly gulped the air, trying to stay calm. Her mother rushed about, helping her to get ready, telling her what to do and what not to do. What to say and what not to say.
Finally, he arrived.
Fred opened the door and greeted him kindly, then called to his wife.
“The young suitor is here!”
Caroline and Margaret walked in from her room a moment later.
She was beautiful, her sharp red hair swept up in the back, a small hat so as not to cover it all. There was just a touch of lavender to her dress, and it accented her scent, which was also a touch of lavender.
Richard’s heart skipped a beat, and he stepped forward, taking her hand and kissing it gently.
Margaret was to be their chaperone, and as the three of them left, her mother kept a few steps behind, keeping a watchful eye. As was proper, their first date consisted of a short, semi-private walk along with a small amount of conversation. These conversations usually revolved around the man’s interests only, but Richard wanted to know more about Caroline.
“So,” he broke the silence, “What are your interests?”
Her hands folded in front, her eyes cast downwards, she spoke softly. “Cleaning. Sewing. Cooking,” she lied, knowing her mother was listening. She knew better than to talk about her drawings.
“And, what else?” he pressed further.
“That’s all,” she responded stiffly.
He nodded. He knew she was lying, but also sensed why: because her mother was within earshot.
“My interests include teaching. Especially art.”
Caroline stopped abruptly and looked up at him, shock in her expression, but she quickly dropped it. Not before Richard saw it, however.
“You have an interest in art?” he asked.
“Art is nice,” she answered neutrally.
Richard sighed. A conversation for another time, he thought to himself, dropping the subject.
Richard saw Caroline once a week for many weeks, Margaret trailing a little further behind with each date. Caroline still seemed uninterested, but she continued to see him, never refusing his requests to see her.
The newest rumor circulating around town was that she was seeing him against her will. That her parents saw him as their daughter’s last chance to be married.
He didn’t want to believe that, but even if it were true, he wanted to see her so badly that he was willing to see her any way he could.
But then guilt crept into his heart. He didn’t want to make her miserable. He couldn’t live with himself if he were the one responsible for her unhappiness.
After much thought, he decided it was time to find out the truth.
It was to be their first date together without a chaperone. He would talk to her, about art first, cause that seemed to spark an interest, then about their courting and relationship. If she were truly seeing him against her will, this would be the last time he would see her. If there was even a glimmer of something there, he would ask her father for her hand in marriage.
When Richard arrived, the rules were explained to them. They could hold hands, but nothing else. And there was to be no kissing.
They left her house together, for the small path they knew so well. They planned to have a picnic in the grass, under a tree near her house, but still within eye view of her mother.
Caroline set out the blanket and silently started to take the food from the basket when Richard broke the silence.
“Tell me about your interests,” he asked of her.
“Cooking, cleaning, sewing-”
“Yes,” he interrupted, “But tell me about your other interests.”
“My other interests, Mr. Karinsky?”
“Please, Caroline, call me Richard.” When she said nothing in response, he continued. “Yes, your other interests. You seemed excited at the mention of art on our first date. Are you interested in art?”
“Art is lovely.”
Richard sighed. He knew what was going on, and he had to get to the woman that was underneath all the prepping. “Yes, art is lovely. What art do you like?”
“All art is lovely.” She was beyond nervous. He was asking too many questions. Her mother warned her about how to answer the questions, but he was making it difficult for her to lie.
“Caroline, please,” he implored. “Just talk to me. No one is here but you and I. You can speak truthfully.”
She wanted to run. His voice was making her tremble. There was such kindness there. Such tenderness. She sat silently, saying nothing.
“Caroline, I’ve heard the rumors. I hear what people say. I want to know what you say.”
Could she trust him? If she told him about herself truthfully-- What if it was a trick? To get her to say something so he could run and tell her folks the courtship was off? They would scold her. Send her away to a convent or something. But, he didn’t seem like a trickster. He seemed genuinely nice. Still, she was afraid.
Richard could see the tension in her. He was losing, and it hurt. Hurt more than he realized possible.
“Ok, Caroline, let’s try something.” He shifted into a more comfortable position on the blanket, forgetting about the food for the time being. “I’ll ask you a question, and you answer with a nod or shake of your head. Truthfully. Ok?”
She nodded; he smiled.
“Good. First, may I call you Caroline?”
“Thank you. Do you have an interest in art?”
Again, she nodded.
“Is there a specific style of art you prefer?”
She nodded. He was getting somewhere. It was working.
“Do you really like cooking and cleaning and sewing?” he asked playfully, lightening the mood.
She chuckled softly, shaking her head no.
He smiled at the break in her usually rigid demeanor then, pressed further. “Did you like dancing with me?”
With hesitation, she nodded.
“Have you enjoyed our time together?”
The nod was so slight it was almost impossible to discern.
Gathering his courage he asked, “Do you like me Caroline?”
She remained perfectly still. Her heart was racing so fast, she thought for sure it would burst right out of her. He waited for an answer, but upon getting none, he asked again.
“Caroline? Do you like me?”
She closed her eyes tight and nodded.
Richard couldn’t contain his smile, and he reached for her hand, touching it softly, squeezing it for just a moment.
“Well, let’s enjoy this wonderful picnic, shall we?”
Caroline stole glances of him during the picnic, but said nothing. He talked a little, about teaching and his preferences in art, but mostly they just enjoyed the peaceful day in silence.
Richard dressed in his best attire, wanting to look his best. He marched proudly to the Duffy residence and knocked; his presence was warmly welcomed. When he asked to speak to Fred alone, Margaret had a feeling as to why. She rushed to Caroline’s room and roused her, whispering frantically.
“Richard is here! Quick, get yourself presentable!” She helped her change clothes and put her hair up with a beautiful hair-comb. Within a few minutes, Fred called to them. Caroline looked pale, and ill, and Richard noticed, his eyes showing concern.
“Caroline, dear, come here,” her father beckoned, and she complied shakily. “Mr. Karinsky has just asked for your hand in marriage! Congratulations!” He placed Caroline’s hand on Richard’s as Margaret shrieked with delight.
“Oh, sweetie! Congratulations!” She hugged her daughter then turned to Richard. “Congratulations! Son!”
“Thank you,” he returned politely, but his concern for his fiancée was obvious. “Caroline? Are you ok?”
“She’s fine!” Margaret quickly answered for her. “She’s just excited, that’s all!”
“Caroline, tell your future husband you’re ok so he doesn’t think poorly of you!” Fred demanded, worried that Richard would back out if he thought she was sickly.
“I’m fine,” she said softly, forcing a smile, but her act did little to relax Richard’s concerns.
They invited Richard to stay for dinner, where they talked about Caroline’s dowry and planned for the wedding, agreeing that it would take place a week from Saturday. When Richard left, Caroline’s mother took her into her room to talk about ‘the birds and the bees’.
She listened as her mother explained how things worked between a man and a woman, but she already knew most of it. With a friend like Annie, how could she not? Still, there were certain things even Annie didn’t discuss, like the fact that it would hurt. And that it was the woman’s duty to submit any time the man asked. This terrified Caroline.
“I can’t do this, Momma!” she cried, her face in her hands.
“Do what?” her mother asked.
“You don’t have a choice!” Margaret exclaimed. “Richard is your last chance! He’s a good man with a good job!”
“But I can’t be a good wife! I don’t know how!”
“You’ll learn how! And fast!”
“No, Caroline, I’ve been patient with you. I’ve been flexible! This is it! Now, you’re getting married a week from Saturday and that’s final!”
Caroline cried herself to sleep that night, her emotions in such turmoil she couldn’t sort them all out. There were too many of them and some of them were foreign to her.
She knew she liked Richard, she was always happy to see him, and when he would call on her for a date, but there was something about him that caused her anxiety.
Her heart would often race in his presence, and her stomach usually felt queasy. It was worse when he would touch her hand, or sometimes when he would simply smile a certain way.
There were a few times she actually thought she was ill, and almost asked to see Doc Johnson, but the feelings would almost always leave shortly after Richard left for his home.
But after a while, the feelings lingered even long after he had gone. Sometimes, they would creep up when she would just simply think of him. That’s when she realized the feelings were linked to Richard, not to illness.
She knew then what they were linked to, but still didn’t know what to make of them. It all was very unsettling to a young woman who had never been in love before.
As all the plans were made, Caroline resigned herself to the fact that the wedding was going to happen, with or without her cooperation. She stood numb as the seamstress pinned the stark white gown, taking measurements for the alterations as her mother buzzed about happily.
Caroline found it ironic that the ‘happiest day of her life’ was more accurately the happiest day of her mother’s life. She also found it ironic that on the eve of marrying a man who claimed to love her, she felt so unloved and unwanted.
She climbed into her bed, knowing it was the last time she would ever do so.
Flowers and candles adorned the small church, creating a warm romantic feel to the ceremony, not that Caroline could enjoy any of it. It was all she could do to walk down the aisle toward the man she was essentially being forced to marry.
Annie of course served as her Matron of Honor, and Del stood in as Richard’s best man, in the absence of any friends or family of his own attending.
Nearly the whole town turned out to see the bride all thought was unlikely to ever wed, then after the ceremony, the reception.
There was food and dancing and lively discussion. Everyone had a grand time, except for Caroline. Richard could tell something was bothering her, but assumed it was nerves. It wasn’t until after the reception, when they got home, that he realized it was more than that.
She changed out of her wedding dress and was in her nightgown, sitting still as stone on the edge of the bed. Richard joined her, keeping his distance at first.
“Caroline?” he asked with concern, “Are you alright?”
“Yes.” She responded with what was proper, not with the truth, and he could tell that she was hiding something.
He tried to inch closer, to comfort her or reassure her, but she edged away from him. She needed distance.
“Is there anything you would like to talk about?” he asked, resisting the urge to wipe away the single tear that trickled down her cheek.
She shook her head. “No.”
“You looked beautiful today,” he complimented sincerely.
With a shaky breath, she thanked him.
When he moved to sit beside her, she visibly tensed, pulling her hand away as if she had been stung when he reached for it.
“I’m sorry,” she immediately apologized. “You’re my husband now. You can touch me.”
“Do you want me to touch you?” he asked, feeling dejected.
When she didn’t answer, he reached out to her again, and this time, she didn’t pull away, but he could sense she wanted to.
“Caroline, we’re not going to do anything you don’t want to, ok?”
Her eyes stayed focused on the small patterns that ornamented the rug beneath her feet.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” he almost whispered. “I just want to be near you.”
She didn’t know what to think, all she knew was she did not want to be there.
He sighed as he left the bed, pulling the sheets and blankets down. Caroline climbed into bed once he finished, rigidly still as she watched him climb into bed a moment later.
Reaching for the bedside table, he turned down the lamp. “Goodnight, Caroline,” he whispered, turning to face away from her.
Caroline remained frozen in place, waiting for him to take her, but he never did. Instead, he fell asleep. She eventually drifted off, confused by his actions.
Days turned into weeks and they still hadn’t consummated their marriage. This worried her, so she tried hard to be a good wife in other areas, like cooking and cleaning, hoping he wouldn’t take her back to her parents. If she ruined this, her parents would surely send her away.
Her cleaning was fair, but her cooking was horrible. Still, Richard ate his meals without complaint.
Every night they would go to sleep on opposite sides of the bed, and every night after Richard had fallen asleep, Caroline would sneak out of bed to ‘doodle’. It wasn’t long before he realized her nightly pastime, and would occasionally sneak peeks of her as she would feverishly draw by the poor light of the lamp, keeping it turned low so as not to wake him.
Sensing it would probably upset her, he kept his knowledge of her activity a secret. He wished for her to share her art with him, and herself with him, but knew it would take time, so, he remained patient. Painfully patient. And again, the rumors started around town.
This time, the rumors were that he was displeased with Caroline and would be returning her to her parents. Fred and Margaret Duffy didn’t dare ask him about it though, since that would be considered improper. Instead, they waited with baited breath for the day she would show up, back at their home.
One night, while drawing quietly, she heard a noise that caught her attention. She looked up quickly, horrified to see Richard standing there. He jumped slightly at her abrupt action, then just simply smiled and returned to the bedroom.
Caroline was mortified. He’d caught her. That was it. He would surely send her back now.
Tears trickled down her face as she gathered her papers and put them away, heading back to their room. She climbed into bed carefully and crawled beneath the covers.
Richard said nothing as he listened to her quickened breathing, along with the sound of soft sobs. He knew she was upset, but debated whether or not to comfort her or leave her be.
“Please don’t cry Caroline,” he whispered soothingly.
She attempted to dry her face before replying. “Are you going to send me back to my parents now?”
Puzzled by the question and worried about the answer, he asked, “Do you, want me to send you back?”
She shook her head.
“Then, no,” he assured her. “I am not going to send you back.”
There was a long moment of silence before she spoke up again. “How long have you known?”
“About your nightly activities?”
She nodded, her back still to him.
“Since the beginning,” he admitted, pulling himself into a sitting position, silently hoping she would follow suit.
“Why didn’t you--?”
“Say something?” he finished her question for her, pleased when she turned to face him. “Because you seemed intent on keeping it from me.”
“I thought you wouldn’t understand,” she sighed, looking away. “People don’t understand,” she added sadly.
“I do,” he promised her, smiling as her eyes met his. “I understand.”
“You do?” she asked warily.
He nodded. “In fact, I would love to see your art some time.”
“You would?” she asked, smiling for the first time in weeks.
“Yes, I would.”
No one had ever asked to see her ‘doodles’ before, and she found herself beaming. “Now?”
Finally he was seeing the side of Caroline he knew was there, and longed to get to know. “Now would be great.”
She gathered her drawings and set them out on the bed as Richard turned up the lamp. She was nervous showing her works to him at first, but as he showed interest, she became more excited to share with him. They talked well into the night about her work, and art in general, till they both could barely hold their eyes open.
“We should probably get some sleep,” Richard suggested, unable to suppress a yawn.
She agreed, also yawning.
“Thank you, Caroline,” he said with a grateful tone, “For sharing your work with me.”
She smiled in response.
“Any time you want to draw, you can. You don’t need to hide it from me,” he told her. “You don’t need to draw only at night by the dim light of the lamp.”
“Really?” she asked, surprised by his radically different view of her pastime and passion. She was used to people squashing her creativity.
“Really,” he assured her. “I want you to be happy.”
She sighed softly, touched by his warmth. “Thank you, Richard.”
“You are most welcome.”
They snuggled down into bed, and for the first time, Caroline inched closer to Richard as she settled in, almost touching him. He smiled; it had been a good night.
They finally had something to talk about.
While Caroline drew happily each day, her evenings were spent with Richard, discussing art: their common interest. The sparkle that graced her eyes warmed Richard’s heart, as she would eagerly show him her new creations.
When he critiqued her work, he was always kind. He knew any negativity might cause her to pull away from him emotionally, and he was enjoying their time together far too much to risk that happening.
But as it turned out, he never had to lie, for her work was quite impressive.
With each passing day they became closer and closer, and Richard would take little opportunities to touch her hand or her shoulder, hoping she would some day return his affection.
One night, upon climbing into bed, Caroline inched close to Richard, her back touching his front, and he slowly wrapped his arm around her waist. She tensed slightly, but did not pull away.
“I’ve enjoyed our time together these past weeks,” he whispered in her ear. “Have you?”
She nodded silently.
“I would never hurt you,” he breathed. “Do you believe that?”
She turned, looking deep into his soulful brown eyes; she believed him. With a slight smile, she nodded.
Sighing contentedly, he touched her face. “You are so beautiful,” he whispered. “I’ve loved you from the first day I saw you.”
His touch, his words, they made her head spin. She closed her eyes, reeling from the emotions he was stirring.
He gathered her into his arms and kissed her neck, making his way to her lips. He kissed her softly at first, his touch like a feather dancing on the wind, and then he kissed her fully, tasting her. Their tongues danced together lovingly, sensually… perfect.
When he pulled back he could see the wealth of emotions in her eyes, and he smiled reassuringly, brushing his thumb across her lips. Lying beside her, he held her in his arms, not advancing any further, lest he frighten her. He wanted to love her, but he was willing to wait.
“I love you, Caroline,” he whispered as he kissed her ear. “I just hope one day you can love me too.”
Her heart leapt. Love. That’s what she was feeling. The butterflies that assaulted her stomach, the quickened beat of her heart… She wondered if he felt the same, and she put her hand on his chest, feeling for his heartbeat. It raced, just like hers.
She relaxed into his embrace, finally ready to trust him with her heart and body.
“I love you too, Richard.” Her voice was so soft and quiet he almost couldn’t hear her.
Touched by her declaration of love, his heart soared, and he raked his fingers through her hair, cradling her head in his hand as he kissed her passionately. She responded to his affections, gasping as his hand slid down her side, grazing her breast.
“Richard,” she whispered breathlessly, breaking the kiss. “I’ve never-”
“I know,” he soothed, adoring her face with gentle kisses, his hand slipping beneath the soft cotton of her nightgown. Her reaction to his touch encouraged him, feeding his appetite.
It was like she was drowning in the sensations he created. The feel of his hand on her body, the skin on skin contact… it was electrifying. He touched her in ways that made her burn and shiver, all at the same time.
With her permission he removed her nightgown, continuing to touch her, feel her, arouse her. It was nothing like her mother said it would be. It was beautiful. And it felt wonderful.
She felt this need, this aching for him, and she sensed he would know how to quench it.
He ran his hand between her legs, parting them, lightly brushing against the material of her undergarment. Her eyes slammed shut as she arched her back, a whimper of satisfaction tickling the air.
Whatever it was that was building inside her, she wanted it.
Richard smiled. “If you tell me to stop,” he whispered, “I’ll stop. Ok?”
Her eyes drifted open as a smile crossed her lips. “Don’t stop.”
Mindful of how she must be feeling, he slowly removed his nightclothes, watching her carefully as he disrobed. After giving her a moment to adapt, he climbed into bed, hooking his fingers around her bloomers.
The unstated request electrified the air around them, and permission to remove them was given when she lifted her hips off the bed, allowing him to continue.
Kissing her, touching her, his hands and lips adored her, blurring her mind as if intoxicated.
He moved, positioning himself between her legs, kissing her lips softly as he supported himself above her.
“Your mother spoke to you? About what to expect?” he asked, his voice sounding strange to her ears.
Caroline felt a twinge of fear as she looked into his face. Nodding, she said, “She told me it would hurt.”
His eyes begged for forgiveness as he stared back at her. “I’ll try not to hurt you,” he whispered, kissing her softly again.
Cautiously, he slid his hand down her body, touching and fondling her for the first time there without clothing between his skin and hers.
The feeling was incredible, and her brain struggled to catch up with all that she was feeling, her involuntary whimpers the only sound in the room.
“Richard?” She didn’t know what was happening. Did he?
“Ssshhh,” he soothed as he continued to touch her… caress her. He knew she was there when she grabbed at him, her whole body shaking.
“Richard?!” she shouted, gasping for air. She felt like she couldn’t breathe. Like she was floating on some cloud high above the earth, conscious of nothing but the perfect sensations he created within her.
He kissed her lips, her cheeks, her forehead, apologizing in advance for what was about to take place.
“I’m going to try not to hurt you,” he whispered as he gathered her into his arms, pressing himself against her.
Her eyes flew open and she looked at him, fear now replacing the look of bliss.
“I’m so sorry,” he apologized again, holding her tight to him as he pushed carefully into her. The feeling was wonderful, and he felt ashamed for enjoying it, knowing it was causing her pain.
She jumped in his arms when he felt her tear, a small sob soon following, and he stopped all movement, allowing her time to adjust. After he felt her relax, he started moving again, his thrusts slow and gentle.
It started to change from painful to something else. Something good. And it was getting better by the minute.
A soft moan formed in her throat, causing Richard to pull back, searching for affirmation of what he’d heard.
When she felt him move, she opened her eyes, meeting his stare.
“Are you ok?” he asked, realizing her expression no longer held fear or discomfort.
She nodded slowly, closing her eyes once again, meeting his thrusts with her own.
Burying his face in her shoulder, he gathered her into his arms again, holding her as he felt his climax nearing.
When it came, he grunted, his body growing weak as the most incredible sensation washed over him.
He collapsed beside her as the feeling subsided, utterly exhausted.
Caroline listened as his breathing returned to normal, waiting before she whispered his name.
“That was wonderful,” she uttered shyly, pulling the sheet to cover herself.
“It didn’t hurt?” he asked, smiling at her show of modesty.
“Well,” she admitted, her cheeks flush with embarrassment, “It did at first, but then the pain went away. Then it felt… wonderful. And what you did before…” she trailed off, not knowing how to put the feelings into words.
He pulled her closer, kissing her temple, enjoying the intimacy as she snuggled up to him, her head on his chest.
Minutes ticked by without concern, thoughts far away in a dream-like haze.
“Can we do that again?” she asked, her quiet tone an indication that sleep was near.
He couldn’t help but smile. “We most certainly can do that again.”
Thanks for reading!