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I was fifteen when I met Jesse, he was eighteen. Son of the town drunk it is needless to say that my upper class parents dissaproved intensely. They did everything they could to keep their precious daughter away from that boy they hated so, and I retaliated by seeing him whenever I could. Against the odds and against conventions I fell in love.
It was June first, balmy and still in the summer South Carolina air. I was growing up in Manson, a small town located about fifty miles from Charleston. My father was known to the good people as Dr. Kielmann, but to me he was just daddy. Everyone seemed to have some preconcieved notions as to what I should be doing with my life and who I should be dating. I can tell you that their idea of my perfect relationship wasn't with Jesse Taylor.
But that night I was headed to Breiner Park where we always met. The sun had just sunk beneath the tree line and the last flames of pink scorched the horizon. I took a deep breath, anxious as always to see his face. It was something I had come to depend on, like visual air. His presence in my life had become easy, but I never took it for granted. I always counted myself as one of the lucky to be with someone like Jesse.
"Hello, Mr. Taylor," I said softly. He grinned, an easy smile breaking across his face. He was wearing a dirty white tshirt that accentuated his muscled chest and arms with brown pants. His hands were in his pockets, black hair spiked just slightly. I sighed, getting that familiar feeling of coming home after a long day.
All of my friends agreed that Jesse was goregous. His skin was tanned from hours spent working on his farm and it covered thick muscles. His eyes were the darkest shade of black and seemed to speak for themselves. His eyes could never lie to me. Full lips and a chisled nose were set into high cheekbones. He had a small scar under his right eye, a token of an accident from long ago.
I walked closer to him, running a hand across his cheek. Standing on tiptoes I pressed my lips to his, feeling his warmth. One hand rested on my lower back, the other ran through my hair. I rested my arms on his shoulders, smiling.
"Where to?" His voice was deep, sensual in an intoxicating way.
"Why don't we go into town? The people should have cleared out by now." He wrapped an arm around my shoulders, holding me tight to him. We walked in the road, knowing that the chance of a stray car coming down this little road was highly unlikely. The stars were brighter than I had ever seen them and I got the feeling they were shining just for me. It casted a shadow on Jesse's face, playing with my eyes. He smiled at me, kissing the top of my head.
We strolled through the streets, neither of us saying a word. Silence between us was never awkward, just peaceful. We passed the hardware store and the shoe store, small wooden buildings ran by friends and neighbors. There was a closed up ice cream stand and a shiny Coca Cola sign, shimmering just slightly.
As soon as it started it was over, a sure sign of a small town. The buildings ended and we were strolling down the street, lined with large white houses with grand front porches and different colored shutters. I lived on this road, just about a block down the street. I wasn't concerned about being seen, there were no street lights and the large trees that surrounded the sidewalks would block us from sight. I sighed softly, contentment flooding through me.
"Tired tonight?" he asked. I shook my head slowly.
"No, not tired. Just happy, happier than I've been in a long time. I haven't smiled this much for quite some time, and it's all your fault," I teased. He laughed softly, looking off in the distance.
We passed my house, neither of us sparing it a passing glance. It wasn't that I was mistreated at home, far from it. My parents had no trouble handing me lavish gifts and all the finer things in life, but the atmosphere was always the same. Since the death of my much preferred sister, they had treated me with cool indifference. It had been a struggle to convince myself I wasn't at fault, mainly because of Jesse. I had met him at the worst time in my life, depressed and frustrated I had rebelled against them and caused some trouble.
"What are you thinking?" he asked. I thought for a moment before answering.
"I'm thinking about when I met you. I was a bit of a disaster, wasn't I?" He looked at me, eyes soft.
"Yes. You were angry and scared at the same time. I always wondered why Anna Kielmann would take any interest in me, but for some reason you seemed to. I wasn't going to argue, you're truly something else. I'm just glad that you're finally laughing again, Rose. I'm glad that you're here and okay." I smiled slightly, lost in thought.
Rose. His name for me, it always had been. It was my middle name, and he was the only person who used it. I had spent so much time with him lately that I would tend to forget my name was Anna.
"Do you remember when I broke that window? My daddy was so mad, I've never seen him like that before. I don't know what came over me, I just saw red. And then I ran off and pounded on your door in the middle of the night and we slept on the riverbank." He nodded.
"Of course I remember. You almost broke down my front door. That night turned out wonderful though." I let his voice take me back to that cool evening when I had put a rock through our neighbor's car windshield. I had snuck out my bedroom window and ran all the way to Jesse's house, furious with the world.
"It really did, didn't it? I blamed myself for so long after Grace died, I couldn't see anything around me. But it's kind of like you turned on the light. I wish you could have met her," I added wistfully. It was easy to talk about her now.
"If she was anything like you, then she was wonderful," he said. I rolled my eyes at his huge exaggeration.
"Oh please, Jesse. Are we talking about the same person? Grace was better than I ever will be, she lived to make my parents happy. I, on the other hand, will bring on their painful and premature death." I brushed my hair back, seeing the end of the road up ahead. Where the road ended there was a small clearing through a hardwood forest, and if you followed it you hit the river.
"I wouldn't count on it," he said. I could hear a smile on his voice and the corners of my own mouth habitually turned upward.
"Well, tonight we aren't going to worry about my parents or their untimely deaths. You and me are going to have fun, because tomorrow is the Town Hall Ball and of course you will be escorting me. I have an absolutely goregous dress, you'll love it. A light champagne color with a corsette, matching shoes. I'm still excited that I finally have a date who is tall enough for me to wear high heels, as a matter of fact. And Maria will be there with Charles, Sarah will be there with Stuart and Betty will be there with John, so we won't be alone." He was silent for quite some time after I finished, his mood didn't seem to match my own enthuisiasm.
"What's wrong? It's going to be fun, I promise. Nothing painful." I aimed an elbow at his ribs and he avoidied it narrowly, but no hint of a smile.
"Rose, I don't have a tux. And I can in no way afford one, you know that. I would love to be there with you but I don't think it will..." I cut him off with a quick kiss. He should have known me better than to leave a detail untouched.
"Do you honestly think that I would allow you to wear a tuxedo that doesn't match my dress? Don't be silly, it's waiting to be picked up with my dress tomorrow morning. I'll bring it to your house as soon as I get it." He sighed, running a hand through his hair.
"I can't let you pay for this. It's not right, I should be paying for your dress, not the other way around. And I can not believe you father allowed it, either." I closed my eyes, pinching the bridge of my nose.
"Jesse, please stop worrying. I do not care if you can afford to buy me fancy things, I can live without them. But while I have daddy's money in my pocket we are going to enjoy it. Your tux will be at your house by ten o'clock sharp tomorrow morning, you will put it on and pretend you are enjoying yourself but I will accept nothing less! My daddy doesn't need to know, and he won't. Please, don't worry about anything. I love you, isn't that enough?" He stopped walking, studying my face with a kind of intensity nobody else seemed to possess.
"Enough? It's far more than I deserve. But I can't stand seeing you do all this for me. I don't need an expensive tuxedo." I smiled again, I had forgotten to mention something.
"Well, then I guess it's a good thing it's a loaner." He ran a hand through his hair again and started walking, a low chuckle just hearable.
"You're unbelieveable," he said over his shoulder. I caught up with him quickly, laughing a little myself.