The Reaping Chapter Two

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By the time I left Nonnie's house, it was midafternoon. The sky had darkened. For some reason it didn't rain much during the day, only overnight where the wind howled and the rain pounded on the roof and against the windows. It sounded like the end of the world approached. Once I loved falling asleep to those sounds. But, in the past few years, every time the skies opened, it didn't sound like the gentle soothing rains I remembered from my childhood. I imagined the Almighty above was furious. This added to the punishment of never being able to leave the house at night.

But we needed the rain. For once, a storm like this would be welcomed.

I didn't want to pass by the stable and have the misfortune of seeing Gilbert Mason again, so I took the long way home. I walked behind Nonnie's house and toward the town square with a dish full of cobbler in my hands. Being her granddaughter had benefits. She'd invited me to stay the night but I needed to finish my other chores before the harvest celebration the next day. When I told her I had too much to do but perhaps would stay with her tomorrow night, she gave me a hug and said I reminded her of my mother, who always had a list in her head and needed to get everything done before the next day.

The temperature dropped and more shadows became pronounced even though the square didn't have much shrubbery like the outlying areas. No beady red eyes from the wildlife peeked out from the trees and bushes waiting to attack some poor person who had the misfortune of being caught outside after dark. A swallow pecked at a piece of grass. That small bird would act very different in a few hours when day disappeared and night ruled the land with the mist as its king.

Clutching the dish, I felt a pair of eyes watching me again. I hated feeling this way and wished I had stayed with my grandmother who would keep me safe.

The snap of a twig gave me pause. For some reason, no people loitered in this section of the green. A strong breeze whipped my hair around my face. Spitting out the strands coating the inside of my mouth, I stumbled over a root and began to fall. A pair of arms caught me before I met the ground.

"Ack!" I screeched as the arms held me close. My face pressed into a chest where I could hear a steady heartbeat under my ear. I panicked and then breathed a sigh of relief. I sniffed the chest, which had a very familiar smell of what I could only describe as tree bark combined with maple sap.

"Hello, Nathan Alexander." My voice came out muffled. I tried to move back, but he continued to hold me near. I felt the vibration from his robust laugh.

"How did you know it's me? With your hair covering your face, I'm surprised you can see where you're going."

I glanced up at him when he let go of my arm. I swallowed and closed my eyes, enjoying his hands moving over my features. Nathan Alexander was free with his touches to those he cared for. He always hugged his mother and sister and patted his father on the back. As of late, he did that with me. It didn't feel like the touch a brother gives, but something entirely different, leaving me confused and wanting more.

Moving aside my hair, his fingertips brushed my cheek.. My stomach quivered and I stepped back, holding the cobbler to my chest.

"I can smell you," I blurted out and couldn't help but blush. If I had a hand free, I would have smacked my palm against my forehead.

He let out another booming laugh and bent over at the knee. I felt a bit insulted but I loved hearing him express such humor. What I said did sound absurd. I joined in, and he stood up and gave me a big smile. My giggles waned. Sunlight poked through the clouds and hit his right cheek. I longed to be the ray of light on his fair skin. Both Emma Marie and Nathan Alexander were very beautiful. Their bright smiles and sparkling blue eyes were much desired by my fellow unmarried neighbors. Emma Marie had been spoken for already. Nathan Alexander didn't have a sweetheart to call his own and was in very high demand. A sense of loss swept over me. He would never want a girl with washed-out hair and a nose too big for her face. Or one who had a bad habit of going over a million things in her head and questioned too much.

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