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Denim and Lace
An historical mystery of
first love, timeless love
6 June 1875
Kathy opened her eyes. How uncoordinated can I get? she thought. I’ve never been drill team material, but this is ridiculous.
Water main construction had been going on along her mom’s street for months, and Kathy was always careful to walk around the ruts and holes and trenches that seemed to change daily and which the workers sometimes neglected to cordon off. Today she had obviously been too distracted. She felt really embarrassed about falling down like this. Imagine the Principal, after giving her all those awards, seeing her now. Though the right side of her head was throbbing like mad, she managed to hoist herself up. What she saw stunned her more than the blow to her head. She was surrounded by grassy farmland. This was not her mother’s street. It was a dirt road.
Where are all the houses? All around her, as if she were on a movie set, she could hear the braying of donkeys, the mooing of cows, and the occasional call of a rooster. I must be dreaming or delirious. Kathy laughed outloud, making the pain even worse. She was too level-headed for such a consideration, whether or not she was in agony. No, she wasn’t dreaming. The sky was still cloudless and azure blue. Still, her head ached dreadfully and the scrapes on her arms and legs burned.
She considered the possibility that she might be hallucinating. She struggled to remember what she had learned in Health class about the effects of a simple concussion. She tentatively touched the area above her right temple that hurt so much, lifting her permed blond hair. What she discovered, to her horror, was a huge knob. She pulled her hand out of the tangled mess and was relieved at the absence of blood. Suddenly she felt woozy and sat down immediately, propping up her legs. She put her head between her knees to keep from fainting. Waves of nausea flooded her body. Whatever was going on, she had to keep her act together. This was definitely the weirdest event of her sixteen years. Sitting down seemed to help.
“Ah, excuse me, miss...”
Kathy was startled from her thoughts. The boy standing over her looked amazingly familiar. She couldn’t understand why, but she was instantly drawn to him in a way she had never experienced. Oh Universe, give me a break! were the words that flashed through her mind.
He was dressed like someone out of a Mark Twain novel--Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, whomever. She had an impulse to pull a piece of the long grass she was sitting in and give it to this boy. He could stick it in his mouth and chew on it to complete her image. She resisted her urge to be obnoxious because this guy was really interesting. After all, it’s only a dream. I mean this has to be a dream.
He was standing beside a horse, one more enormous than any she’d seen. It looked kind of like the drawing of work horses in her American History book. The beast was not saddled, so the boy must ride bare back. She could hardly imagine mounting it, much less riding it that way.
She couldn’t keep her eyes off this guy. He had an odd looking bag hanging from his shoulder. It reminded her of the ditty bag she had made when she was in Brownies one year, but much larger, like a pillowcase with a drawstring. The bag must contain books, judging from the hard angled edges that strained its contours.
“Uh...miss...are you all right?” he finally asked. He, too, appeared spellbound.
For a brief, immeasurable moment, their eyes locked.
Kathy cleared her throat. “I think so, but I’ve got this awful lump on my head. When I stood up, I felt so dizzy that I sat down again. I think I’ll be OK in a couple of minutes. Hey--do you live around here?”
“Nobody else does,” he replied coldly, looking askance at her. “Come now, certainly you must know that I am Eric Chapman, of Chapman Farm.”
Kathy suppressed her anger at his conceit and her astonishment that he apparently thought she was goofy. She needed this guy’s help. “I’m sorry I didn’t recognize you, “ she fibbed, doing everything she could to keep sarcasm from her voice. “All I want to do is get to a telephone so I can call my mom. I’m sure that by now she is totally worried about where I am.”
“Telephone?” asked Eric incredulously. “To what might you be referring? I have never heard that word.”
Kathy looked at Eric with matching disbelief, tinged with terror. Not only was the way he talked really put on, so fake, but what he just said was beyond the imaginable. She paused for a few moments before she dared speak again. What kind of sick game was this guy playing with her?
“Eric,” she stated calmly, doing her best not to reveal the panic welling throughout her being. She willed herself to forget her physical pain. “Listen. I’m feeling a little disoriented. Do you think we could go to your house so I can get myself together? I don’t think you and I are communicating very well. I’m sure it’s me, with this bump on my head and all. Is your mom home, do you think?”
Kathy hated having to put on an act, but she was uncomfortable and had no idea what she was dealing with. Here she was, stranded in the middle of nowhere, interacting with a boy who was so handsome, gentle and polite that he took her breath away, but also scared her to death because of the way he presented himself. One thing she did know was that she was caught in a very unusual predicament, one which she wanted to get out of as soon as possible. Apparently her tactic was working, because she immediately detected a change in Eric’s demeanor.
“Miss, I do agree with you. And of course, my mother will be at home. There is just one thing, however: may I ask your name? Mother will think it awfully strange if I take you to our home without knowing it.”
“Oh. Yeah, you’re right. My name is Kathy. Katherine Ingram Adams. Please don’t start laughing or make a crack about reruns of “The Addams Family”. Fact is, my family are descendants of John Quincy Adams, one of our past Presidents. I am so tired of jokes about my last name and family heritage.”
Eric shook his head woefully. “While I am most honored to make your acquaintance, I refuse to further explore your ancillary remarks about your heritage. Indeed, I am aware that J.Q. Adams was our sixth President, and I cannot fathom laughing about a lineage so noteworthy.”
Kathy struggled to control the shivers of fear that threatened to overtake her body. This is too weird and I can’t let it spook me. I’ve got to focus on getting Eric to take me to his house.
“Eric, I think I’ll need your help with my bookbag, and I’m not sure that I can walk.”
“Please try not to be concerned,” he said as he hoisted her up onto the work horse and threw her backpack over his shoulder alongside his. “I am quite certain everything will be fine. Let’s concentrate on getting to the Farm now.”
Uncannily, Eric had voiced her precise thoughts. Kathy relaxed a little once she was atop the powerful horse, soothed by the slow beat of its gait. If nothing else, she had to admire Eric’s willingness to go out of his way to help a stranger. She really couldn’t imagine any of the boys she knew doing that for anyone without being forced to.
She almost giggled outloud. This Eric guy might be slightly deranged, but at least there was hope: once she got to his parents’ farm she could call her mom and everything, indeed, as Eric might say, would be fine. With her troubled mind temporarily at peace and her injured body in a numbed-out sort of state, she couldn’t keep herself from glancing at the handsome, agile young man who was leading the horse that carried her. Could the magnetic attraction she felt toward him be merely a result of her trauma, or something more?