Off the Narrow Path
By Trudy A. Martinez
Seeing the farmhouse up the road and wanting to get out of the car now, her hand touches his.
“You are sweet,” he says when he feels the gentle touch of her hand. Smiling, he turns to gaze upon her beauty, expecting a similar greeting in response. However, this is not to be.
Nellie, disturbed that he interprets the touch of her hand incorrectly, pulls her hand away. A stiff rigid frown replaces the once smooth lines of her smile. “O-op!” she wails, touching his hand again; this time her touch is more like a jab, and she quickly pulls it away.
“What is the matter, pretty one?’ He asks, not knowing whether the sudden change in her demeanor or the sound of her voice enlists his attention more. “You said something: ‘‘O-op’—you want me to stop?”
She nods, feeling a sense of dread quickly replaced by a sense of relief when he puts his foot on the brake pedal.
“There’s no farm for at least a half mile,” he remarks assuredly, adding“, and that is the Preacher’s,” Suddenly realizing by the look on her face he has kindled another fire with his words, he asks, “Are you the Preacher’s daughter?”
She trembles as memories of the past flash before her. Just thinking of how her Pa might react sends chills down her spine.
“You are—are you not?”
She nods slowly, not wanting to acknowledge her heritage although she knows she must. Nellie feels no embarrassment, what she feels the most is fear though not for herself but for him.
“Doesn’t matter,” he says, declaring sincerely, “I still want to see you again.” Then he asks, “When can that be?”
Shrugging her shoulders, she descends from the automobile, thinking, and “If I ignore his questions, they will stop”. However, Terry’s persistence continues and finally prevails.
“How about seeing you Sunday for Church?” He asks.
Nellie Mae keeps her silence. Her eyes grow in size, reflecting the fear in her demeanor, as she forcefully swings her head to and fro’ (from left to right) to express her negative reply. “Church,” she thought“, is the last place I want to be seen with a beau.”
“Are you afraid of what your Pa will say?”
Astonished by his response, her eyes grow even larger. She thinks he can read her mind. Nevertheless, that is not so; it is her eyes he is reading like the words on the page of an open book.
“What time does he go to bed?”
Not imagining why he asked, she holds up eight fingers before she turns to walk away.
“Wait”, he pleads, “Then meet me here at nine o’clock tomorrow night”, adding an afterthought, “After he goes to bed.”
Flustered by his request, she hesitates.
“If you don’t say yes, I’ll be pounding at your daddy’s door, asking him”, he threatens as he jumps from the vehicle and approaches her.
Thinking, “He is a lot like Mr. Peabody”; she nods under duress.
“You know, pretty thing,” he says, looking into her expressive eyes“, you say more with them eyes, and nods and gestures than most women do with a thousand words”.
Nellie blushes shyly, dropping her face from his sight.
His hand catches her head just under the chin; tilting it back, he kisses her tenderly on the mouth. “I’m going to teach these lips to speak,” he says.
She pushes him away, turns, and runs toward the hilly crest, thinking, “That is all I need—him to be laughing at me like the others”. Oh, how she wants to talk like other people without hearing laughter after each word she speaks. “Can he really teach me?” She asks herself.
In her mind, she considers his good qualities. Patience, manners, and education rank the highest. His mother taught him well. Though his mother is the local schoolteacher, the same one who gave Nellie such a hard time when she went to school, she feels just because she is his mother if anyone can teach her to speak he can.
“Nine tomorrow,” he yells after her.