After her mother broke the news to everyone within earshot, Sally cried out and flew out of the church like a wounded animal. Her skirts trailed behind her as she ran. The reality had crashed in on both of them. He hardly knew her and had no idea how he was going to juggle keeping a farm along with a child bride.
“Go after her,” said Mrs. Thompson.
His irritation intensified at the sound of the woman’s voice. It possessed the quality of a weak person who thought that she had power. He swallowed down the words he longed to say.
“We should let her be,” said Jeremiah. “I need to check on my cattle.”
He started to walk out of the church. The outside air caressed his dewy skin and he longed to run away, too.
“We will have the wedding tonight, Jeremy,” boomed Mr. Thompson.
He stopped in his tracks. Without looking back, he inhaled an angry breath.
“You couldn’t give either of us a final night before we are bound together forever?”
Heavy footsteps shook the floor as the older man reached Jeremiah’s side. Jeremiah clenched his fists. He had never wanted to punch someone so badly in all of his life. He was twenty-one with his whole life of him. He didn’t think he would consider marriage until he was old. His dreams of selling the farm in a few years to travel the were destroyed with the ferocity of a twister.
“Any man would consider himself lucky to wed my beautiful daughter. I will see you at my house at six o’clock this evening. Is that understood?”
Beautiful was not the word that Jeremiah would have used to describe her. She was cute, of course, but in a childish way. Not that any girl turned his head to begin with. He had better things to think about than romance and marriage.
“Yes, Sir. I will see you at six o’clock for the wedding.”
As Jeremiah left the church, he entertained wild ideas that would help him escape the ridiculous arrangement. He broke into a run for his farm. His eardrums throbbed even after he stopped in front of his home.
His entire property was spared from the tornado. If it had, an undesirable marriage would have been the least of his worries. His livelihood rested on breeding and selling his cattle to the butchers to get him through the winter. He took a deep breath and stared up at the blue skies. It almost seemed illogical that a storm had raged through the countryside mere hours ago.
Sally held her knees beneath the tall willow tree. She took turns weeping and staring up at the pretty pink skies until the sun went down. In the distance, she heard family and friends calling for her, but her loud thoughts drowned them all out.
Crickets and toads chirped all around her after the sun set, reminding her that it was time to go home. She arose to her feet in the darkness, lifted her skirts, and ran for home.
She reached the front door and hesitated before opening it. She grabbed the door knob; the sound of Jeremiah’s deep voice vibrated the door knob. Once she went inside, her entire world would change forever. She took a final moment to savour the girl she currently was. With a deep sigh, she opened the door and met the faces of every person who meant the world to her. The pastor leaned against the wall, her parents sat at the table with her little sister, and her best friends, Lisa and Sarah, prepared tea and sandwiches. She must have looked a sight to them.
“Forgive me,” said Sally quietly. “It’s been a very strange day.”
“We were worried sick,” began her mother.
Her father held up a hand to silence her.
Sally’s gaze travelled to Jeremiah. He sat at the other end of the table with a less than pleased expression on his face. She longed for someone to tell her that the entire day had been a feverish dream and that she had just woken up, but instead the silence thickened.
Jeremiah stood and knelt down in the middle of the kitchen. With dark wavy hair, chocolate eyes, and a square jaw, he was a handsome enough man, but she knew nothing about men. She tensed as he looked into her eyes.
“Sally Thompson, will you marry me?”
Sally swallowed hard, looking over at her Mama for guidance. Mama nodded for her to accept.
“Yes,” whispered Sally.
Everyone in the room clapped their hands except for her Papa. He had no doubt been the cause of the whole arrangement. Sally bit her lip and raced upstairs. When she was finally in the safety of her own bed, she curled up into the fetal position and wept.