Hello from me on a Sunday- how unusual! I thought since I have 13,000 shiny new words that I'd post a little snippet from BETWEEN THE LINES. Hopefully the other girls might do the same from their works in progress to give you something to read on your Sunday.
This snippet comes from 1915, when Bill is looking after the farm while everyone else around him has gone away to war, including his brother Len and his fiance Kit's brother Tom. Len, of course, attacked Kit before he went away, and they've all been dealing with the fallout since. Tom joined the Army just to go look for him to bring him to account, and they're all worried about what he might do. And Bill and Kit, though they'd been intimate before the attack, haven't touched each other since. These are the issues they're dealing with in this little bit. It's in progress and not edited, so excuse any shonkiness (g). Hope you enjoy!
The next months passed in a blur of work. Harvesting season came around a couple of weeks before Christmas, a month after the papers showed the big pack of ships leaving port in Albany, bound for the other side of the world.
Len was on them, somewhere, or so they had to assume. Tom, too.
Kit was working with them now that Len and Tom were gone, and she was the equal to any man as far as effort went. He’d never been as proud of her as he was to watch her riding high in the saddle, shouting out to the dogs as they herded up the sheep, or whistling to the horses as they worked together to bring in the crops and level the field again after. She might not have the size or the strength, but he’d take her as crew over his brother any day.
He started the sowing early that morning, knowing it was the day she did the washing first. It was a hot January day, and the heat beat down on his neck as he worked and rose back up at him out of the soil. He was lost in the rhythm of reaching into the bag, pulling out seed, slinging it side to side, and he didn’t realise she was there until the wind switched directions and whipped her voice around.
He stood fast, and scanned the field with a hand over his eyes. He spotted her running toward him up the hill, skirts flapping, one arm up in the air. She’d taken to wearing pants around the farm, but of course she still wore a dress when she went into town, so she must have been in.
She was puffing like a steam train by the time she got to him. “Here! In the mail!” She held out a piece of card, and when he took it she dropped her hands onto her knees to catch her breath.
The postcard was brief, and it wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as she’d made it look, racing up here like that. He read it out loud.
In Egypt now with the boys. No news.
He looked up at her. “No news?”
She was almost recovered now, standing up straighter and breathing like normal, but her cheeks were flushed pink and her lips were a little open. “No news is good news. We don't want Tom to find him.”
She shook her head. He nodded toward the nearest stack of bales, which cast a thick shadow across the stubbled ground. They made their way over to it and sat down together, backs up against the itchy hay, glad to be out of the burning sun. Her leg pressed against his, and he was painfully aware of the way her skirt was sitting just above her ankle. He tried not to look, without much success.
“We don’t?” he prompted, gently.
She looked thoroughly determined. “We don’t. It happened. It’s finished. I’m starting next week at the school, and Len’s gone. We want Tom to come home, not to do something stupid.”
He pursed his lips a little. “It’s not that easy.”
“It is. I say it is.”
He opened his mouth to speak again, but then he noticed how white her fingers were, clenched in on themselves, and he thought better. There was nothing they could do, sitting here in this field, except forget Len and hope Tom was home soon.
Kit rummaged around in her skirt pocket and pulled out a round of damper. “I brought you some lunch.”
His stomach rumbled loudly in reply, and she laughed, pulling out wax-wrapped chunks of ham and cheese, and even a little jar of pickled onions in brine.
“You look after me so well.”
She leaned over and pecked him on the cheek, but by the time he turned his lips toward hers, she was busying herself with the food. She chattered on about town as she cut slices of meat with her pocket knife and tucked them into torn bread, telling him about who she’d seen and what they’d been up to. He could remember his mother doing the same before she got sick, coming home full of gossip for his father. Just like his dad, he couldn’t keep track of all the comings and goings. It seemed to be a uniquely female way of looking at the world.
He tucked into his sandwich when she handed it to him and contented himself with watching her eat. She was tiny, like a little sparrow. Neat bones in her fingers and wrists and collarbones, plumes of hair escaping their knot to flap in the wind. It had been months since he’d seen her without her clothes on. He craved it like a man in the desert craves water. He needed it.
He set his sandwich aside, leaned in and kissed her neck, just beneath her ear. Just where she liked him to kiss her.
She stiffened up and stopped chewing. He sat back.
She wasn’t looking at him. She was staring fixedly at the red earth in front of her, like a statue of herself.
“I’m… sorry,” he said. It was clear he’d done the wrong thing.
She shook her head, making curls bob, and took a big gulp to finish her mouthful. “It’s okay,” she almost whispered.
He leaned towards her again, but she put her hand up.
“I mean… it’s okay. But… I’m just not ready.” She looked up at him with such pain in her eyes that he felt the stab in his own chest. Until that very moment, he’d thought Len was gone. Really gone. But he wasn’t. He was right here, sitting in between the two of them. Still with his hands all over her.
The wash of emotions almost drowned him in one hit. “I thought… Well, are we still going to get married?”
She answered him by turning the other way. The bottom seemed to drop out of his stomach, and he wasn’t hungry anymore.
She turned back, tears in her eyes. “I want to marry you. I do! I still do. But… I want to wait for Tom to get home.”
He nodded. The way she said it told him it was a convenient excuse more than a heartfelt desire. “That could be a while yet. He thought he’d be back by Christmas, remember? And he’s not even fighting yet.”
“Perhaps he won’t have to fight,” she said brightly. “Perhaps it’ll all be over before he gets there.”
“Maybe.” The way the papers were talking about it, that didn’t sound likely. He reached out a tentative hand and touched hers. After a moment or two she opened her fingers and let him hold on. That was all they’d done since September. Just held hands, touched each other in passing. She’d pecked him on the cheek once or twice, and he’d kept his hands to himself.
“Kit…” He didn’t know how to say it without sounding like he was pushing her, and he knew she couldn’t be pushed. “I miss you. I miss us. Don’t you?”
She closed her eyes and turned her face up to the sky. “Of course I do. But when I think about you like that…” She dropped her head. “I think about him. I can’t stop myself. I don’t know how. And I’m not ready.”
If she thought about him half as much as he thought about her, then Len was spending an awful lot of time in her head. “Don’t let him come between us. Please!”
She looked up at him. “I don’t want to, but…”
He leaned forward impulsively and kissed her on the lips. She drew back, but he reached around and pulled her in, all the way onto his lap, holding her close. After a few moments, the tension started to ebb out of her back, and then her tongue flicked against his and she kissed him back. Her hand snaked around the back of his neck and pulled him closer.
After a few minutes of that, he was ready to explode on the spot. He pulled her gently sideways, aiming to lay her down on the hay, but she went stiff again and broke away.
“No! No. I’m not ready for that.”
“You weren’t ready for this a minute ago.” As soon as the words were out, he regretted them. She looked as though she’d been slapped. “Sorry. Sorry! I didn’t mean to say that. I’ll do whatever you want, and nothing more than that. I promise.” He pulled her back again and kissed her softly on the lips. “I'm not my brother.”
She nodded, stroking his cheek. “I know you’re not. Let's just... be together for a while. Please.” She settled in against him and he pulled her close. After a while, she whispered, “That was nice.”
He nodded, his cheek against her hair. It was. But he wished that he could have all of her, mind, body and soul, like he had before. And he didn’t know if he’d ever get it back again.