I nod. Right before he goes in the door, he turns back and adds, with a shrug and a glint in his eye, 'But then, you can't be upset if it turns out I can't keep the news to myself.'
After Papa goes, we stand as close as we can get, looking everywhere but each other, like we are strangers, like there must be some new way of talking now everything is settled between us but we don't have the knack of it yet. When Papa's voice comes through the wall, rumbling too low to make out the words, Mama trills back like a bird and I don't need to hear what she's saying.
'She's pleased,' I say, and look at Jeremiah full on.
'And what about you?' he asks, a smile starting. 'You pleased too?'
I throw my arms right around him then, squeezing tight.
'What took you so long?' I ask, my ear to his chest, his heart pounding as loud as mine.
'That's all you got to say?' he says, and cocks his head to look down at me, the smile gone.
'I thought you weren't coming! I been waiting for near on three days now and'
'You counting Sunday?'
I draw back. 'Course I'm counting Sunday. You didn't ask my Papa on Sunday, did you? Made me wait most the day Sunday, all day Monday, and now it's supper on Tuesday. That seems like something close to three days from my way of thinking.' Without my telling it, my hand has pulled free and got itself on my hip.
'It ain't so simple as just asking, Rosetta.' He reaches out, tickling at my hip, working to gather my hand back into his.
'No?' I say, and let him pry my fingers loose, closing them in his warm ones.
'No. There's arrangements that have got to be made. Like where we're going to live. How soon we can be living there. Getting Pastor Bowers' permission. I've been making arrangements these past two days.'
I ain't really thought about a thing except what I want, but it ain't for him to know that.
'So when are we getting married?'
'Unh-uh.' He shakes his head. 'You ain't answered my question, I ain't answering yours.'
'I asked if you was pleased.'
'Course I'm pleased! You think I'd be mad if I wasn't pleased?'
'You don't make a lick of sense,' he says, but he is smiling now and he takes a step closer to me.
I move into the circle his arms make. 'You ain't told me how soon we're getting married.'
'Pastor Bowers said he could marry us the Sunday after next,' he says into my hair.
'And where are we going to live?'
'On my family's farm,' he says. 'We've got my Ma and Pa's Little House, the one Pa built first.'
'We get our own place?'
'Course. I ain't bringing no new wife into my parents' house.'
'Buteven when you're' I can't finish saying it.
'Even when I'm away. You can live there. It's ours. 'Til we get our own farm,' he whispers, and kisses my forehead. It is a different kiss altogether from the one at the creek, 'til he cups my cheek in his hand and I raise my mouth to his. Only then Betsy bangs through the door and yells for supper like we ain't standing right in front of her.
Later, at supper, after Mama apologizes for not having something more special than beef soup and bread, she tells how Papa, only he was the farmhand then, showed up, knocking on Granpappy's door. How she pretended not to take notice of him, but she remembers him turning his hat round and round like a wagon wheel in his hand.
Excerpted from I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe Copyright © 2014. Excerpted by permission of Crown Trade, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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