I, Charles Rupert Gowan, take you, Augusta Audrey Horsey, to be my wife…
He had looked nice enough when she first saw him coming up the walk, suitcase in hand, inquiring after a room. Her mother led him through the house and upstairs, giving her usual modestly hospitable preface: "It's not much, but i hope you find it comfortable..."
"It'll be just fine, thank you Mrs. Horsey."
Mrs Horsey always delighted in introducing new boarders to the rest of the house at dinner. This newest guest was very cordial, shaking everyone's hand in turn, looking everyone in the eye, greeting all with a sincere "how do you do?"
"...and this is our youngest daughter, Gussie."
He paused, as if pleasantly surprised by her. He still greeted her as he had the others, but she noticed his gaze lingered on her. He still participated in the lively dinner conversation, but whenever it reached a lull, Gussie noticed the newcomer studying her from across the dinner table. He gave her a small, fond smile whenever she caught him.
In the coming days and weeks he continued to study her, as she cleared dishes, when she sewed by the window in the front room, as she tidied the house. He liked to talk to her as she dusted or prepared vegetables for dinner, and would smile at her when he passed her hanging laundry on the line as he strolled around the yard.
Gussie grew to like his attention. She found herself wearing particular dresses more often because Charles had said they looked very nice on her. He often caught her glancing at him from across the dinner table, giving her one of those smiles she grew to love. They started taking walks in town after dinner, sometimes to talk but mostly just to be alone in each other's company.
I, Augusta Audrey Horse, take you, Charles Rupert Gowan, to be my husband...
His touch startled her that first time.
"Is something wrong?" he asked, drawing his hand away, now clenched with concern.
"No." She tried to relax, recover from the surprise. "No, I'm alright." She tried not to stiffen again when the warmth of his hand returned just under her shoulder blade and they continued walking.
They began to walk close like this more often, his arm sliding just under her shoulders as soon as they were around the corner and out of sight of the Horsey front porch, but in the next several days, ever so slowly--though not slow enough to escape Gussie's notice--his hand began to rest along the smooth curve of her side. At first it was strange, this closeness, but she learned to like it, enjoy it.
Her mother was surprised by the news that her youngest daughter wanted to marry this Gowan, but her father gave the couple his blessing, assuring his wife it was what Gussie wanted.
"But what if she's not happy?"
"You know our Gussie, she always figures something out."
"…That God has joined, men must not divide. Amen."