Indentured Love- #10
Since the day that they had taken that morning ride and raced the horses to the big tree, they had both went to great measures to try and avoid being alone together. Yet, when they thought the other one was not looking they would steal those moments.
She missed those times when she had shared his midday meal at the stables. Slipping away to spend time with Storm was beginning to be more difficult and she missed just being astride the stallion. The truth was now that the harvest was almost over she hoped to get back to her nightly escape to be with him, even just to simply be confined to riding him in the small enclosure was something she did not want to lose. It had been getting harder to restrain the big stallion for he made it quite plan that he wanted to break past the barriers that held him. She could see the pleading in his big dark eyes when he would nuzzle her hand and then nudge the gate. She also knew that it was only time, until she would take that daring chance and break free with him to one of the larger fields---perhaps? If she was careful and waited until late one night, who would know?
That evening at dinner John told them that the harvest had ended. All the crops were stored and it was time they prepared for winter months and that meant that she could begin teaching the children again. The women would be spending most of there time spinning and weaving.
He asked her if she had made the list of supplies that they needed for he planned on taking her and two men with him to purchase the items for this would be the last chance to navigate the roads before the rain and snow came. The trees were already showing their beautiful colors of red and golds.
"John when will this trip take place?" she asked.
"Oh, I'm sorry I thought that I had mentioned it before, we will leave first thing in the morning and we will be back on the third day so take the appropriate clothing." He gave her a weary smile and then excused himself as he added that he was not getting enough sleep. Tonight he swore to himself that he would not sit up and stare out that dam window, in hopes of seeing her astride of the stallion. Somehow he needed to broach that subject---but how? Maybe on this trip to the city the subject of the horse could be worked in? Yet, he did not want her to know that he had been observing her nightly rides with Storm.
At the crack of dawn they were all up and Meg was fussing around like an old mother hen. She had packed them a food basket so they would not have to stop and prepare any. The men had drawn the three wagons up along side of the stable. She watched as John checked each wagon to see that they had what they needed to make the trip.
She slipped over to the fence and gave Storm his anticipated pat and his apple. Quietly telling him that she promised when she got back that they would go for a---long ride.
John could see her talking to the horse as he kept a cautious eye on them and he knew that he had to keep his distance. What she didn't know was that several nights after he had seen her riding the stallion he had slipped down to the stable and tried to bribe the horse with the same treatment---but with no success.
The pace was slow and John had placed a pad up on the seat and insisted that she ride there and keep him company. They talked of many things, he told her how the country had changed and pointed out different areas along the way and telling her of the people that had once lived at different places as some were now deserted. The tension had eased by the end of the day.
Finally she had to ask? "John why did you bring me along on this trip, because I thought all you needed was a list of the supplies that we might need?"
There was a long moment of silence before he answered. "Anna, there are some items that are not on your list that I need your help with. Christmas will be here before we know it and I would like to present each of the women a bolt of material so that they can sew their husbands a shirt or maybe make their children something. The have all worked very hard since coming here and I appreciate it. This harvest was the best we have ever had and it is due to their hard work. I need you to select those certain items that only a woman would know about." He laughed and she turned to look into his smiling face.
"Anna don't you see if I was to pick out a bolt of material those poor men would probably be wearing silk petticoat shirts." This brought the laughter from her that he wanted. Her laughter was pure music to his ears.
John pulled the team off the road and back into a thicket of trees. The two wagons followed in and one of the men built a fire and she soon had coffee heating as Meg had shown her how. Then they all shared the meal that Meg had also packed. John had said that they would get into the city early and so they should get some sleep. He showed her a pallet that he had fixed in the back of the wagon for her and then she watched as the men tethered the horses and made ready for their nights sleep. John made his bed under the wagon.
She laid there thinking of how her life had completely changed over the past months. Here she was in a new country far away from her home and all the comforts that she had taken for granted. The hurt of finding out that the people she thought were her friends including all the young men that professed their love for her---had simply turned their heads and looked the other way when she needed them the most.
Looking up at the stars that twinkled so brilliantly above, she realized that she did have one true friend now for the first time in her life---Meg was that one and she smiled thinking about how she had found that one great friend, ironically in--- New Gate Prison.
Now as far as those young men that had courted her with all their wealth and meaningless words--- well she now knew that she was fortunate that she had not fallen into that boring trap.
Even though the circumstances were much different now---there were feelings that she had never felt before in their presents. This man John Blake was a power that made her blood rush through her body with a heated desire that she had never experienced before. Today as they sat side by side atop of the wagon and talked of many things---it felt so different. Still he was her employer and she was indebted to him. Maybe if it was not for that obligation, things could have been a lot different?
John clasps his hands behind his head and stared up at the bottom of the wagon. He wanted to know more about this woman Ann Martin that lay directly above him. What secrets lay hidden behind those dark eyes? Was this just a physical attraction or was it more? That day that they raced the horses to the big tree and he helped her dismount and he held her in his arms and gazed down into her pure raw beauty, did he get a glimpse of innocence and desire staring back? If the cry of that child hadn't been heard, would he be laying here with a wagon bed between them? Sleep again, did not come easy that night.
She awoke to the smell of the coffee penetrating the morning air. "Oh John I'm sorry that I slept so late, I ---I had trouble falling to sleep last night."
He laughed, "Yes, I know what you mean, maybe we just missed our nice soft beds."
They all ate the biscuits and ham that Meg had provided and were soon on their way. When they arrived John took her into the general store and asked the clerk to help her obtain the items that she had on the list, he also handed her husband a list of his own.
"Anna, I will come back in two hours and pick you up and by that time all the orders should be filled. If you see anything that we need that didn't get on the list please feel free to add it." With that said he headed for the door and the men that waited outside for him. It was obvious that the merchants knew him and respected him.
She purchased ten small slates and chalk so that each child could have his very own. There was not a big selection of books for children but she did find a couple that had pictures that she could put their imaginations to work on. Teaching them was becoming a joy to her and she knew what she wanted to do when she was no longer a indentured servant.
After selecting flannel material for the women to make the shirts that John had mentioned, she could not help eyeing and touching a beautiful dress that was displayed in the front of the window but knew that she could not add this to her list. Besides she had clothes from what she and Meg found in the trunk. She would ask John if it was permissible to buy a bolt of flannel just for Meg, for she was in need of a night shirt. Meg's size limited the choice of anything else.
As the items were piled to one side she was amazed at the amount of items and seen the wisdom in why John brought three wagons. He did say that they needed to purchase everything that they would need to get them through the winter. She also made a quick calculation of some of the cost. It was a staggering amount and yet he appeared to have some sort of wealth, he did no flaunt it in the manner that she had seen other men display.
John peaked through the window of the store and watched Anna as she again reached out and touched one of the ready made dresses. Her back was to him and he could see by the way she stroked the material that she admired it. It was a dark rose color and it had not the high neck line that most women here wore but a very low cut that he had seen on Abigail. Abigail openly boasted about how her sister sent her all the latest fashions.
He entered and quickly walked back to the woman that had just finished with her list. She could not hear what they said but the woman was nodding her head in agreement.
"Well Anna were you able to find all the items?" he asked.
"Oh yes, but I am astonished at how much these purchases are," she whispered so that the woman would not hear. This was another moment of how she had never really before in England gave thought of the cost of mere everyday items that were---essential.
He chuckled. "Anna as I told you before the harvest was very good this year and I think we can afford it." He said as he too leaned close and whispered it into her ear.
The words did not affect her as much as his warm breath on her ear did. He then turned and went to the back of the store again and was talking to the man and she seen him hand him an envelope. She presumed it was the payment for all the supplies.
He returned to her and took her by the arm and escorted her out the door. "Anna, it is going to take longer that I anticipated for the other wagons to be loaded with the supplies so I have arranged for you and I to stay the night at Mrs Eation's boarding house."
"Oh! she said as she halted and looked up at him.
"Yes, I hope you don't mind. The men will see to the loading and they will stay with the wagons and we can leave fresh in the morning. This way we will not have to spend another uncomfortable night along the road sleeping in the wagons." He said as they quickly fell back into step, along the boarded side walk.
When they were in front of the boarding house she looked up and was pleasantly surprised at it. It was just a typical standard home as most were here and the front steps had been freshly scrubbed and it looked clean. When they entered they were greeted by a heavy set woman that John introduced her to as Mrs. Eation. She eagerly welcomed them and called a young girl from the back to come and show the guest to their rooms. Anna was dubious about if they were suppose to share a room. Her doubts were soon laid to rest as she was shown to a room and as she looked bock over her shoulder she seen that John was being shown to a room across the hall. She felt a little guilty of doubting his intentions, especially when she saw her little carpet bag with her only change of clothes in it sitting beside the bed.
She realized that John had come ahead an arranged for their---comfort. The girl announced before she left the room that supper would be served in the dinning room in thirty minutes.
Twenty minutes later there was a slight tap on her door and when she opened it John stood there smiling. "Anna I hope you are ready to partake in one of Mrs Eation's suppers. I don't know if it will compare to Meg's table but it will be better than cold biscuits and ham on the road." he again leaned close and whispered to her and reached out and tucked her hand under his arm as they made their way down the stairs.
When they entered the dinning room several men stood as John seated her at the table and took the chair beside her. Several of the men shook Johns hand as they seem to know him. There was only one other woman at the table and she was elderly. They all took turns introducing themselves around the table and noticed they only gave their first names, so she followed suit. They all chatted politely with each other until Mrs. Eaton took her place at the head of the table. The table was laden with food and passed around until every plate was piled high.
As she sat there eating she tried to keep up with the conversations. She was eager to hear any current news. It seemed that most of the talk was centered around the British and the French war. They all agreed that it was getting to close to them. This too was different from the dinners she had attended in England. There was no elaborate table settings and everyone only had a knife, fork and spoon. She noticed that even some of the men simply only used the spoon. She soon found herself enjoying the ample food and the simple conversation.
After they had dined John escorted her back up to her room and cautioned her to lock her door. She did not hear his foot steps until she had secured the bolt on her door and then she was sure that he went back down the hall and not to his room. She presumed he probably went back down to the parlor to join some of the men.
The next morning she woke very early just at dawn. The noise from the street below was evidence that most people were eager to start their day. She quickly dressed and just in time, for she heard the soft tap on her door. She felt a rush of warmth spread through her anticipating that John would be standing there with that radiant smile. This was that warm glowing feeling that she tried very hard to push into the back of her mind---determining not to admit how much she was beginning to want this man to be more than just her employer.
• To be continued: