by: Amanda J. Richter
“Are you okay?” Emily asked from behind me. I turned from the horse, my hand resting on its sturdy, warm, neck. She clutched a shawl around her shoulders but it couldn't be doing much to keep her warm. Snow clumped around her thin shoes.
“Fine,” I patted the horse, “I just needed air. You needn't have come. You’ll catch a chill.”
She laughed, “I'm of sturdier stock than that River. A little cold won’t do me any harm.” She clutched her shawl.
“I should go soon.”
“Oh.” She blinked in surprise. “I assumed you would stay the night. I...” she tapped her feet to dislodge the snow, “I thought we might have a dance yet.”
“I don’t know if that’s wise,” I said.
“You do not think it wise, or you do not want to?”
“Emily.” I shook my head.
“It is a simple question, River. If you do not wish to dance with me I will go back. All will be forgiven and forgotten.”
“Of course I do.”
“Well then,” she held her hand out.
“Here?” I laughed.
“Well if you are sure our guests will revolt at the sight of us dancing.”
I slipped my hand into hers. Her cold fingers curled around mine. I pulled her towards me. She rested her hand upon my shoulder; my hand on her waist. She smiled. I led her around the stable to the quiet music that poured from the house. Our feet shuffled on the damp hay; our tempo set by the horses whickers.
“River,” Emily whispered as the music died and we slowed to a stop. She gazed up through the curtain of her lashes, her cheeks flushed. She tilted her face to mine.
I caressed her cheek, “we can’t Emily.”
“Why not.” Her lips pressed against my palm.
“You know why.”
“I don’t care.”
I ran my thumb over her lips, “that is why I must.”
“To protect me?”
“To protect both of us.”
Her hand came and rested on the back of mine, holding it to her face. If someone came searching and found us this way...even Abraham would fly into a rage.
“God played a cruel game when he placed you in my life.” She lowered our hands, together; her fingers intertwined with mine.
The music started again in the house.
She gave a small smile and turned away.
The air grew colder as I watched her return to the house. I gazed at my hand. Her touch lingering against it. I could feel each section her lips had touched.
“Yes,” I said aloud, “he did.”