She didn’t say a word. He was tongue-tied. After a time of just sitting there, he glanced at her.
She seemed to throw off a chill, like when a person stood next to a block of ice. At the same time, he thought the anger showing on her face was as hot as a red horseshoe with a blacksmith whanging away at it. She wasn’t ugly. He was sure she’d look better if she loosened up some, stop pressing her lips so tightly together. Those lips slashed across her face made her nose look sharp and pointy. The sun had colored her smooth cheeks. Emerson liked the line of her jaw. He thought it might be nice to run his fingers over her cheek and along her jaw.
She turned her head, and it was as if her eyes burned a hole in him. He looked away.
After a long time, he snuck another peek at her profile. She was as the boys at church said of her. “Plain straight up an’ down.” She was flat-chested, and that was God’s own truth.
She swung those eyes onto him again. He forced himself to not look away.
“I ’spect, Miss Deborah, you don’t want to be here neither?”
“Either,” she said.
“‘You don’t want to be here either?’ That’s the proper way to phrase your interrogative.”
“That’s what I said.”
“The you rode over here has more education than you do.”
Horse had dropped a pile of biscuits before they’d taken him to the corral. He caught a whiff of the smell. Horse manure, just then, carried a more pleasant aroma than the lilac water Deborah smelled of.
You court her ever day until Saturday. Saturday’s yore weddin’ day, Paw’d said.
“This how it’s going to be, being married to you, Miss Deborah?”
“Until death do us part!”
The look on his intended’s face reminded Emerson of Paw’s bull. “A ton a pure cussed cantankerous, Bull is,” Paw said.
She went into the house and returned shortly with a book. Seated again, she opened it. A tiny smile softened her face as she settled into her reading.
He thought about asking her about the book, to read it aloud, but it was likely it would only earn him a stinging, snotty put-down. He sat up straight on his chair and wondered what had happened to the silence. Before she got her book, the quiet covered the Simmons porch with a big bunch of uncomfortableness. He felt like he had to do something to bust it apart. Now the stillness worked just the opposite way. It lay over him, sort of like when he crawled into bed on a winter night, and the comforter began to keep some of his body heat inside instead of having the cold night suck it out of him.
Silently was the best way to sit with Deborah Simmons.