Invitation to a Picnic
I sat down next to Erica and she passed me a dish of potatoes. “Don’t let them make you feel bad,” she whispered.
“But we haven’t done anything,” I whispered back. “Not anything like what Sven is hinting at.”
“They know. It’s just they’ve never had anything to tease you about before now.”
She was right. These people have a joke to tell about everyone. It’s what makes you part of the group. So I guess I’m one of them now, but I wish their teasing was about something else. I don’t appreciate them hinting I’ve been spending time in Lee’s bed.
I told Lee as much later. “I don’t want people thinking things about me and you that aren’t true.”
“It’s okay. No one really believes it. If I thought they did, I’d put a stop to it right quick.”
I nodded, but wasn’t entirely satisfied.
“You know, you really surprised me last night. You’re one vicious girl in a fight.”
What did he mean by that? “Civil war is no picnic."
“I suppose not.”
He fell silent and we walked toward one of the paddocks.
Finally he said, “Speaking of picnics, I was wondering if you’d like to go to one this Sunday.”
“Just me and you? If people are trying to start a rumor about us, I don’t know. . .”
“It’s a church picnic. A lot of people will be there.”
“I’ve never been to a church picnic.”
He looked at me from under the brim of his hat. “Don’t churches have picnics where you’re from?”
I shrugged. “I suppose. But the only church in my valley was Catholic, and my mother and grandparents were Lutheran.”
“So you never went to church at all?”
“Well, not never-ever. But not until I was older, and then. . .” I couldn’t finish. I had a feeling he didn’t want to hear that churches were just opportunities for spying when I was with Unitas. I didn't even go to a church for my wedding, and besides, Lee didn’t know I was married. Nothing I could say was going to sound good unless I lied, so I shut up and pretended more interest than usual in the horses.
“Come with me, then.”
“Where? To church?”
“Sure, why not?”
“I don’t know if I’ve got any business going around a church,” I said. “I’m not a very good person.”
“Yes, you are. And even if you weren't, that’s why we go to church in the first place.” When I hesitated, he added, “Or just come to the picnic. There’ll be no preaching, just nice people having fried chicken together.” Then he added the final temptation. “There’ll be ice cream.”
I had been looking at a fence post, pretending to examine it, but now I looked up. “You’re kidding, right? Real ice cream?”
“With the last of last winter’s ice. So until your friend Sam figures out how to start a refrigeration company. . .”
This made me laugh. “I wonder who we’d have to kill to get him started with something like that?”
“Someone without dogs, I hope.” He said it with a smile, but I saw him rub the spot on his arm where he got bitten last night.
“And then we’d have to kill someone else to start the automobile company. . .”
“And an airplane business. . .”
“That would require aluminum,” I said, proud of having learned something from my studies. “We’d definitely have to shoot someone for that.”
We leaned against the pasture fence, chuckling over such silly notions, and whatever tension remained between us over the events of last night disappeared like clouds after a good hard rain. He took my hand. “So you’ll go to the picnic with me? They’re nice folks at my church and I’d love to introduce you around.”
I stopped smiling. He wanted to introduce me as his girlfriend, that much was clear. The first hint of autumn coolness was in the air and nearby a horse nickered. Lee was nice, and it might be a good thing to hang around some church people and establish myself a little more firmly in the community. It would be a chance to get a reputation as someone good, instead of just some stranger who could ride horses and kill people.
“Sure,” I said. “I’ll go.”
Like last night, he kissed me quickly, before I had a chance to protest or pull away. Then he went off to check construction on the new barn and I went in search of Flecha.
It looks like I’m soon to have my first real date in Kentucky.