Church services were over. The sermon had been on licentiousness. Abel wondered if it was licentious of him to be interested in the young women who came to the church and engaged in the after-church potluck. Unmarried women with eagle-eyed mothers brought all their best cooking creations to tempt the unmarried men and get them interested in courting. It was basically the same dance every week, and Abel, at age forty, was more an observer these days. Over the past two years, after a long time being relegated to the rubbish heap, Able was seen as an acceptable potential suitor. The attention was flattering, but he didn’t want to take on a project. He’d done that when he’d married Lorelei, for all the good it had done him. She’d run off with some actor in Dallas after cursing Abel for being unexciting. He’d had to do the unthinkable and divorce her. That got him ostracized in Carrollton for more than eight years, though it had eventually blown over. But the divorce had been necessary. Once Lorelei was installed in the acting troupe, and it became clear that the troupe was loose and unsavory, she was irredeemable in Abel’s eyes. Lorelei had been pretty, though not a virgin, when he married her. She wouldn’t say who her prior lover had been, but they were married, so Abel, though disappointed and a bit jealous, accepted her the way she was. Abel had cared for her, but he’d never been in love with her. He’d wanted to, had tried to, but, in the end, he was too conservative, and she was unwilling to compromise. When and if he got married again, it would be to someone who was ready to settle down and be a wife and partner. The young women of his acquaintance were flighty and undisciplined. That wasn’t the kind of girl for him.
These days, flirtations involved widows, mostly with children of their own. Abel didn’t much mind that, but he’d yet to find one he could fall in love with. The chemistry just wasn’t right. He kept giving it time, but his time was running out.
As he put on his hat against the afternoon sun, he observed a game of blind-man’s-bluff a group of young women, somewhere between seventeen and twenty-one years old, were playing. They were laughing and giggling, flitting around each other and trying to confuse the one with the blindfold over her eyes. She was laughing as hard as the others and her attempts to tag one of them were vigorous but fruitless. Her hair was dark blonde with sunlit streaks, and her mouth was a rosebud, pink and tender. The girl’s laugh trilled in the air like the crystal bells the ladies played at church concerts. She had a fine figure, too, petite and perfectly proportioned. A woman that size would make Abel feel like a giant among men.
Eventually, the woman tagged someone, and then fell to the ground with breathless giggles, pulling off her blindfold as she fell. Her eyes were as blue as cornflowers, glowing with youth and vitality. Abel pegged her age at nineteen or twenty. And, best of all, she was new around here. He’d never seen her before. It seemed unlikely that anyone was already courting her…unless she was maybe already married. It was common enough for women of such an age to be married, some with children already. She probably wouldn’t know about his societal scar.
He tried to make out if she had a ring on her finger, but he couldn’t quite tell.
His friend Bruce sauntered up, offering him a glass of lemonade, which Abel took and absentmindedly sipped at. “Now that’s a pretty sight,” Bruce said with a smile, as they watched the girls playing.
“A single man like you could have his pick, Abel. I don’t know why you haven’t settled down yet. It’s been nearly ten years.”
Looking at the new girl, he was wondering the same thing, but it didn’t take him long to remind himself that a giggly girl barely out of the schoolroom was hardly the right mate for man of his age. He needed a widow, maybe. It wasn’t as exciting as having a young woman, of course.
* * *
It’s also part of “The Sons of Johnny Hastings” box set along with Renee Rose, Mary Wehr, Maddie Taylor and Patty Devlin. It’s five novellas for just $9.99. The box set is available at Amazon and at Blushing Books!