July 19, 1887


He traced her lips with his fingertips and then cradled her chin in his hands, gently allowing them to palm onto her shoulders, and then onto her breasts. Shy as a fawn, she nudged closer to him, and he held her, burying his face in her long brown hair.

"We'll run away," he told her, and that was all she needed to hear. The ever-expanding grove of trees secured them from everything but the heat. Come morning, perhaps, Pa would notice that she was missing. But come morning, they would be miles away, heading north on a train, and she would be free. They would both be free.

After all, she was with child, she knew, though no one else but Johnny did. If she had the baby here, it would be denied, but if they were married...perhaps married in the North...things might be different...

"At midnight." He told her, between kisses. "At midnight, we'll run away. We'll meet here, in the trees, and then we'll take the midnight train, and we'll run..."

"And we'll be safe." Louise murmured into the breeze. "Our baby will be safe."

When they parted, she lifted her berry basket and walked the half mile back into town, to the seed store that her father had owned for years, and to the little live-in shanty attached to the back. Ma was already there, sweeping the storefront, but she stopped as her daughter approached.

"You're late." She stood with her hands on her hips, and although she was a slight woman, much like Louise herself, she gave the impression of force. Perhaps it was only the invisible force of Pa, with his great form, that was always behind her, and had always been. Louise bowed her head and replied, "Ma'am, the berries were high up this afternoon."

Ma lifted her apron to shoo away a stray chicken that had come ambling around the porch. "Come along, then," she said, and led Louise into the house.

The End

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