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“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
“Yes, Mother, I know, I know.” What she knew was that her mother would never relent, never release her from this tiresome bondage.
For the next few months Meredith’s life took on a sense of order. Her vegetables grew in rich soil, were harvested and consumed with much pleasure. She often brought them to Andrew’s cabin and together they fixed dinner. He would barbecue while she sautéed vegetables and made a salad. There were always fresh flowers on his homemade table, mostly roses, but sometimes wild flowers he picked by the stream that bubbled on the edge of his property.
“My great-granddaddy built this cabin,” he related one evening. “The family almost forgot about it until about 10 years ago, when my uncle stumbled on it while hunting. My cousin John and I fixed it up real nice, put in electricity and plumbing—took us three years. Then John moved to D.C. and my daddy and uncle told me it was mine as long as I wanted it. I’ve been living in it ever since.”
“The only thing missing is a garden.”
“I just seem too busy tending Mr. Frank’s gardens to dig my own.”
“Let me do it, Andrew. Not much to do in my own with everything almost harvested. Please, I’d love to work the soil before winter. One last time to get my hands in the dirt.”
“Okay.” He smiled and kissed her lightly. “If I can’t keep my precious rose clean, might as well reap the benefits and eat the beans.”
She laughed at his ludicrous remark. That is what she loved more than anything about him. Original thought, appropriate sentences, direct communication, similes, alliteration, poetic license.
By November, she had turned the earth on a huge patch of backyard. He had to take down a willow and two maples so she would have enough sun. He also erected a fence to protect the garden from woodland creatures. She planted bulbs along the front so spring would be heralded by daffodils and tulips. She planned a patch for roses, a larger square for vegetables, and a corner for herbs. She drew an exact model so they would know how many rose bushes to buy in the spring, and where to plant the combined vegetables, those she loved and Andrew’s favorites: peas, string beans, and beets.
Just before Thanksgiving, Mr. Moran dropped a bomb in the munitions plant. He was closing the plant, moving it to Mexico where the labor was cheap. “Kathleen,” he proposed, “I am offering you and Meredith a raise to come with us. You have worked hard, learned quickly, and, well, being family and all, I trust you. I’ll pay for moving expenses, but you’ll have to be there by January first.”
Meredith’s hands froze above the keyboard. She could not react while her mother’s effusive response gave consent for both. Later that night, after a terrible argument that Meredith had no chance of winning, she sat in the barren garden and wept. She knew she didn’t have to go—she was 19. She also knew it was time to approach Andrew about their future, a future lost by January 1 if she did not speak now.
Andrew worked late the next day pruning the rose bushes. Meredith snuck up to him from behind, put her hands around his waist, and hugged him tightly. He turned and hugged her tighter still, lifting her a few inches off the ground. He snuggled his face in her neck and gave her a little nip on her ear.
“You smell like honeysuckle. Is that a new perfume?”
“I bought it special for tonight.”
“And why is tonight special?”
“I have a proposal for you.”
“And what proposal is that?”
“The proposal, Andrew. The only one that really matters.”
He pulled back slightly, looked her straight in the eyes, then smiled. “Well, you kissed me first, I guess you should do the proposing.”
“Will I what?” he teased.
“Will you, Andrew Nuttall, marry me very soon, before January first?”
“Before January first? Why before January first?”
“Will you or won’t you?” She was half pouting, but very serious.
“Sweet pea, I’d marry you tonight if the State of Alabama would let me.”
“That’s all I needed to know. Thank you, my darling Andrew. I do love you so.” She danced up and down, elated, relieved, joyous.