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A Needle Prick
I close my eyes and curl my toes in the long grass. I inhale slowly; breathing in the warm, thick air. The smell of slow cooked molasses made over a fire wafts in with the air. I slap at a mosquito that found its way onto my arm. The heaviness in my heart lifts slightly when I open my eyes and take in the scene before me. Rows of tents, the soft light of burning coals and the glow of lightening bugs are one of the only sources of light other than a few gas lamps. A baby coo’s softly from one of the wagons among the tents. A few boys run past quietly, per their mother’s orders. A stray dog drags some stale biscuits from underneath a woman’s nose. Two little girls sit sleepily playing with their dolls, an attempt at what home used to be.
The sun’s rays are just disappearing behind the horizon; they stretch out and scratch my face. My green eyes squint but don’t blink. I try to just take in the beauty and the quiet peacefulness of the whole situation, but find another rock in the pit of my stomach once again.
Turning I walk away from camp and towards the setting sun. The dust is swirling in circles around my bare rough feet and crawl its way up into my dress, hair, and teeth. There isn’t a part of me that isn’t covered in it. I feel my golden red braid rubbing that bare spot in between my shoulder blades. They didn’t use to be so prominent. But after months on the wagon train to Oregon my skin is stretched tighter, my bones are sharper, my cheeks more hallow, and my waste is smaller than it should be.
I hate it. I hate the dust, I hate my frail body, I hate walking all day in the heat, I hate the sleepless nights in the cold, I hate sharing everything with my sister, I hate looking after my brother (and being told what to do by the other one), I hate my mother’s scared eyes, I hate my father’s arrogant pride, I hate this wagon train, and I hate that I’m losing something I never had…
I stop my thoughts there. Who am I to complain? It could be worse.
Pouting and tired, I stomp over to a stump underneath one of the only trees for miles. Sniffing and knowing my dress is already ruined from the insufferable dust, I wipe my nose on my sleeve. I breathe in deeply and tell myself to go through the exercise my older sister, Adina, back home had taught me. Or had tried to teach me.
“Emmy Parton, every time you think a negative thought, think a positive one to balance it out” She said in that horribly annoying condescending soupier tone.
At least it isn’t muddy, better scrawny then blown up like a blimp (reminds me of Mrs. Daniels three tents down), at least it isn’t raining all day, the stars are beautiful out here, having Hannah here is a lot nicer then having Hannah AND Adina here, Jacob is annoying but I don’t have five brothers like my new friend Miriam, I should be grateful Luke orders me out of love, my mother still takes care of me, I have a farther who is gentle (which is more than some of the girls can say), there’s safety in the numbers, and I should be happy that he is happy…
Wonderful, that just made it worse. All of the thoughts were forced and knowing that I should be happy for him just makes me feel selfish. Cause I’m not really.
I know I am just allowing myself to wallow in self pity. But after weeks and weeks of being chipper, and happy, and pretending that everything is fine…you need to wallow a little.
Hearing the crunch of boots behind me, I look over my shoulder. Too lazy to really care who’s behind me until I see who it actually is. Suddenly I am sitting up straighter, and I am undoing my braid that hasn’t at all tamed my wild hair. Simeon Connor. The one I’ve lost but never really had. Not really.
It’s not fair. He was almost MINE. He was, I can practically swear to it. We had been the best of friends at home, or at least we had gotten to be the best of friends. And my feelings which had long since been there from the moment we were introduced a year before, began to rise even higher when he seemed to be taking more of an interest in me then he had ever before. He stared at me longer, sat closer to me then necessary, did little things to brush against me, and began giving me those looks. I was in blissful happiness, sure that everything would work out okay. I became convinced it had to be destiny when both of our families decided to leave for Organ. It had to be, what were the sheer odds? And I had never been more positive of his feelings for me then on the first three weeks of the journey, every little thing he did for me. Every little look. Every touch, every smile, every wink, every blush…it seemed to have meant more. It screamed more than friendship. I was sure it meant more. At least I think I was sure. But then…she came into the picture.
Her name is Kaylee. She isn’t amazingly beautiful, or something special to look at either. But then, neither am I. My vanity tries to convince me otherwise. She is fun to be around, and she is very kind to. We were friends. But we didn’t see each other often, however when we did we were very pleasant towards one another. And everything was fine, and I didn’t think anything more of her then to be expected. Then one day, Simeon just disappeared. I tried to search for him without being too obvious, and that’s when I found him. Found him with her. They weren’t doing anything really, just talking. But it was like a small prick in my heart. Not a knife or a dagger, just a needle. But needles still draw blood. Sitting close together talking and laughing. I told myself it was nothing, he is just getting to know her as a friend. It was, after all, to be expected. But it didn’t stop there. He began searching for her whenever we were together, and he did it very obviously. They began talking ALL the time. They sat closer than necessary, I saw him with his arm around her, and you could almost never see one without the other. In just a short time I went from being one of his closest companions, to being the one to be with only when she wasn’t available. In just a few days, it went from an amazing high, to a very low low.
I didn’t understand it. How could something change so drastically so soon? What happened? I finally got the courage to ask him about it. “So, how are Kaylee and you?” I asked. He blinked. “What do you mean?” I shifted uncomfortably. I wasn’t very brave when it came to these things. “Well, you two seem to be spending a lot of time together. Do you…do you think you might be falling in love with her?” I gulped. I told myself knowing a horrible truth was better than guessing a wonderful lie. His eyebrows came together. “I-I don’t think so.” “But you like her a lot” “I never said anything about that either. I just…I haven’t met someone with such a similar story to mine that I can relate to. See her dad died in a mining accident just like mine. We can understand each other so well, you know?” I smile and nod “It’s always comforting and encouraging to meet someone like that” Even though on the inside I felt something break, but was being held together by that small “I don’t think so.” A slim fading hope.
Another hope I had held onto was the fact that when our wagon party got to a fork in the road, her family would be going one way while our families continued on to Organ with half of the other Wagon train. But that hope got significantly smaller when it didn’t seem to faze him too much. He had already written her five letters since that parting 4 weeks ago. And the goodbye wasn’t only depressing because I had to say goodbye to my own friends, but both Simeon and Kaylee were so horribly torn up about it. I think he cried. A little. I know I did. But for different reasons. Reasons that were obvious to everyone but him.
We have gotten some of our closeness back. He still hasn’t gotten back to the point he had been before, but we are talking more again. And confiding in each other. It is coming back, I can feel it. But until I know for sure, until that day he might grab my hand, that needle will still be pricking at my heart. Determined to draw as much blood a possible before he takes it out. Any time he sighs, sits writing a letter, gets a faraway look in his eye, or slumps in a position of defeat, it hurts a little more each time. The pain one little thing can cause is extraordinary, and never ceases to surprise me every time it flares up. I tell myself a few months to our history of strong friendship aren’t significant, but maybe I am wrong.
I sighed as he approached. “Hello” He said, standing above me. Silhouetted by the fading sun. “Hi there” I respond, but it isn’t very enthusiastic. “Something wrong?” He asks, his goofy smile that I have no right to love as much as I do erases slightly.
I debate on how much of the truth is to be told. For what is really going on doesn’t have much to do with Kaylee or him not talking to me in those two months. It’s what I found out this morning that is weighing on me.
I had been walking tiredly next to our wagon, deep in thought about something that isn’t important to me now. Hannah was trailing behind, wining about her aching feet. “Be quiet Hannah” I snap, annoyed at the constant voicing of her complaints. She jogs to catch up with me. “You be quiet!” She replies. “I wasn’t talking!” She crinkles her nose. “You were mumbling.” I roll my eyes. “No I wasn’t” She picks up her paste to match my long strides. “Yes you were. You kept saying Simeon’s name to.” I blush beat red that I hope is hidden by my bonnet. Before I have a chance to defend my honor she is talking again “Do you actually like him now?” I sigh, glad I wouldn’t have to address the issue of me saying his name over and over again. “….no, now be quiet.” She folded her arms, which looked ridiculous since she was practically running. “Well, I was just wondering if you ever would. You act like it. I think Simeon wanted you to, but you didn’t then either.”
I narrow my eyes and slow down till we are almost at a standstill. “What do you mean you think he wanted me to?” Hannah smirked. “Nothing, I have to be quiet remember?” I bight my tongue to keep from wiping that stupid grin off her smug face. “Hannah I swear! If you don’t tell me…then I’ll…I’ll not read to you out of Mothers story book for weeks!” It’s not true, if I had ever a choice in the matter I wouldn’t have read it to her once, but she doesn’t know this. Sighing and pretending to consider what I have said, even though I know she is already chosen to answer me, she continues walking. Finally she says; “Well a few months ago he came looking for you at the wagon while you were off with Miriam. I told him I didn’t know where you had gone, and he started to go looking for you when he asked if you ever talked about him. I told him you did, but only when you were telling me that you didn’t think of him anymore then a friend. And that you hoped he didn’t think of you anymore then a friend. And then he looked really sick, and turned and walked away.”
Then I did stop walking. I feel the needle dig in deeper. “Oh Hannah you didn’t!” She stops and looks back at me, generally surprised by my reaction. “Of course I did! You said you didn’t want him to love you, and so I told him so.” I swallow hard, not caring that I probably just ate a bug and a cup full of dust. “I can’t believe you said that” She just shrugs and runs after the wagon.
It all made sense then. That day everything seemed to change so drastically. He was giving up hope of me being more than a friend. That’s why he attached himself to Kaylee so quickly, started acting more like a brother to me and knowing him, it probably did turn into genuine feelings. I know it turned into feelings. Because he isn’t that type of guy, the one who pretends. He is genuine and those feelings are as real as mine for him. Even though I don’t know how permanent they are. Oh why did that have to happen, now of all times? Everything was going perfectly. I felt, though, was sure I was so close to being able to finally call him mine. I felt like crying.
And looking at him standing above me, so close, but now pushed so far away, I still feel like crying.
I shake my head, more to clear it then to answer him. “It’s nothing really. I’m just tired…” I sigh. “Of everything” That was enough truth for him. “Nothing time won’t cure” He says, sitting down with a grunt. Slightly closer then need be…
And suddenly I understand how right he is. More right then he realizes. It took time before and it will take time again, but he is worth it. Maybe it won’t take a whole year this time. Maybe it can be short, maybe it can be just a few weeks. Perhaps his feelings for me are still there, just buried underneath an infatuation with a girl who could understand him. And maybe…just maybe…everything will work out this time. And for once it will be perfect. Like it should have been.
And maybe I am completely wrong, there is a good chance I am. Maybe he wasn’t ever close to becoming mine again, maybe that conversation with my sister didn’t affect him at all, and maybe he never thinks of me. At least never thinks of me more than a friend. But shouldn’t I be honest? Shouldn’t I tell him? I would give so much for him to tell me how he feels, even if I didn’t like it. I would rather the harsh truth then nothing at all. I’m tired of guessing, tired of overreacting to every word because it’s all I have had to go on.
I open my mouth to speak, to tell him everything, to pour out my heart and invite him into it. To end the guessing and the waiting and the longing. But then I stop. Because even though things take precious time, I realize that’s what time is. Precious. And I don’t want to waste it. I need to enjoy the moment, live in the here and the now. I need to go slow. And I need to savoir everything with a taste for quite soft moments like these.
His expression changes and he looks like he’s gonna say something to, but he closes his mouth also. He gulps and looks out towards the sunset. I look down at the stump and see our fingers are this close to touching. Sighing, I shake my head and really understand that my life is made up of these “almost moments”.
“So, how are you and me?” I ask suddenly. Cocking his head he says “Me and you?” I nod, a smile making its way to my face. “Yes. You’ve been spending a lot of time with me, not tired of me yet are you?” He laughs. “Nope, not yet.” I grin and look back towards the horizon. “You know” He says “I don’t think I will. Get tired of you that is” Now I laugh “Oh thank you. I feel so special” He shakes his head, but he’s smiling. “That’s not what I meant. I mean, no matter how hard I try, you’re always here.” He awkwardly pats his chest. “I think you’re stuck with me” He says. He’s still smiling, but there is a question behind his eyes. I feel my smile spreading to my toes. “I don’t think you’re the one who’s stuck” I say. I should know better than anyone. He gives me one of those looks. Starts to say something, but then says he needs to be going. He has a letter to write.
And more likely than not, we won’t ever be together. At least nothing lasting. Most of it is probably all in my head, a girls dream. There’s nothing I can do though to change my heart. I prayed for months but he is still there. Living inside it, without even knowing it. I grin. Maybe there is a reason? And besides, what’s love without a little hurt?
I chuckle after he’s left. This is us. Slow. Hesitant. Quiet. Gentle. But it makes these moments, however awkward and rare, more wonderful.
I can barely feel the needle prick.