Chapter 62

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April 1871

The burial couldn't have gone any slower. It seemed as if at every turn I was being forced into making a decision I wasn't prepared to deal with. Thank god for Catherine and her commanding tendencies. After comforting me for a bit, she began to take charge, and I couldn't have been more grateful. Answering Reverend Jones' questions, paying the gravediggers, and assembling the group up in the meadow around a plot next to my mother's grave, Catherine took care of it all.  

It isn't much of a group, only my friends really: Harrison, Catherine, Felix, and Jonah. I thought it would be uncomfortable having Jonah and Harrison around each other, but it isn't. They seem to be putting things aside out of respect for the occasion. Reverend Jones drones on forever about my father and reads scripture after scripture to eulogize him. He catches my attention when he reads Job 14:14 for I know it well.  

"If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come. Some people, heathen's mostly, believe Job meant his soul was immortal and would continue on with a new life after death, but we know the truth. Job didn't fear death, he welcomed it. He trusted himself in God and knew he would be forgiven of his sins and resurrected when the time came. He put his faith in God and embraced death."  

I snort out loud. Everybody's eyes swing over to me. Quickly I cast my eyes down and turn it into a sob. Reverend Jones continues. Job was a fool. Embrace death? Hardly a concept I'm familiar with since I'm trying my damnedest to avoid it. I've heard this sermon before but today it takes on new meaning. I'm starting to feel the loss of my old life as it gets buried underground with my father.  

I sneak a glance over at Harrison. So his mother is pressuring him to get married, no doubt to prove himself more man than boy in his father's eyes, but there's got to be some girl he's remotely interested in. I think of what I overheard Amelia Akenbrand saying to Felix and shake my head. I can't believe I find myself in the same predicament again. Replaying all my actions over in my mind, I try to discover what actually has ended me up here again. Both my parents dying, but that isn't something I could have controlled. Secretly seeing Jackson, just like I did with Levi, and now agreeing to marry Harrison. It seems my fate has been written. But not yet.  

Price on my head or not, I don't plan on sticking around past September. I may agree to marry Harrison and let him pay off my debts, but I'm sorry to say that I have no intention of following through with the marriage. I will not sit here and wait to die. I will run when I have to. Looking at the people I'll be leaving behind, the friends I'll be betraying, a hole forms in my heart. They'll hate me for it, but just possibly they'll have a long life left to do so.

When the service is over and I've said my thanks to Reverend Jones and find a moment to pull Harrison aside. 

"I'll do it," I whisper, most impolitely, like I'm the one who is doing him the favor. "I'll marry you."  

He breaks out into a huge grin, looking so relieved. His mother must have chosen some real winners for Harrison to see a loveless marriage to me as a better path for his life. He gives me a quick hug and kiss on the cheek, telling me that he'll talk to his parents as soon as his father returns to town.

Catherine comes over to say goodbye. At some point I'm going to have to explain all this to her, but not now, not today. I'm left with Felix and Jonah, my only real family. I turn to them and Felix envelops me into one of his big hugs as the two of them slowly trudge back to the house with me. 

"So, it won't be mine much longer," I say offhandedly as we gather inside. No one sits; we all just stand awkwardly in the main room. I don't think either of them have been inside my house for years.  

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