Fawn was thankful that Joel had brought a carriage. At least they were protected from the deluge while they were inside. She laid the umbrella at her feet which were secure in her knee-high lace-up boots. At least they were the right size.
From her lowered lashes she studied the young man beside her. His hair was the color of sunflower honey and it was just a little bit wavy. She liked the way it curled at the nape of his neck. She had not yet had a glimpse of his eyes since he seemed to always be looking downward, or straight ahead now that he was driving the horses. He had a square jawline and an aquiline nose. His hands appeared strong but there were no callouses. Apparently he was not a farmer. He wore a gabardine suit in the latest fashion. The color, an olive green, seemed to compliment his complexion.
She liked his name. It sounded almost like a whisper as she said it in her mind. What kind of man was he? Was he an accountant? A lawyer? A politician? How did he know Angel? Why would he agree to take her to meet these people?
The Wileys. Oh, my. Would they approve of her? Would they think her too young to be a teacher? Would they think her uneducated because her clothes were ill-fitting? Why had she agreed to this? She wanted to tell the young man to turn around and take her home. No. She had to have an income in order to meet their financial obligations and purchase supplies. She straightened herself in her seat, resolved to make the best impression she could.
“Mr. Blackman, how well do you know the Wileys?”
“What? Oh. They are good friends of mine.” He actually turned his head to look at her.
Startling blue eyes. “Then perhaps you can tell me if I am dressed appropriately for what they might expect.”
He smiled at her. “Yes, I believe so. Your hat is quite fetching and your hair is perfectly in place, in spite of this nasty weather.”
He really must take good care of his teeth, she thought. They are so white, even if a little crooked. Mine are dingy. “Do they have any children?”
He actually laughed a little. “Yes. Annette is eight years old and very inquisitive. She wants to learn everything. Her parents read to her every day and she devours books. She has quite a vocabulary for such a young child.”
“What about the other families in the area? Do you know anything about them?”
“Somewhat. I visit the Wileys about once a month and have had occasion to do some work for some other folks in the area. Most of them are eager to have a teacher. They selected the Wileys to do the interviewing because Michael is the preacher. His wife, Deanna, is so well liked that no one would refuse her anything she asked.
“I do hope they will like me.” She sighed and shook herself a little, trying to calm her nerves.
As the carriage pulled up the driveway Fawn was not prepared for what she saw. It was the grandest house she had ever seen. Everyone she knew lived in two or three-story houses. This house was all on one floor and was probably as long as the swinging bridge that ran from the creek in her holler to the church at the top of the hill. That would be about the length of two or three stagecoaches while being drawn by six horses.
Rhododendron bushes graced the two end corners of the house while alternating pink and white azaleas lined the circular driveway on both sides, arrayed in alternating fashion between red maple, dogwood, and yellow birch trees. The cascade of spring blooms was mesmerizing. Fawn could barely look away from them.
The house was red brick with four white columns supporting a roof over the porch that spanned the width of the house. Four wide steps led to the porch which afforded comfortable-looking rocking chairs and two wrought iron round tables, cloaked with muslin tablecloths and a vase of fresh cut flowers in the center of each. Morning glory vines trailed the columns, although the rain had closed the flowers.
Joel watched his companion’s facial expressions. She was a novelty, a country bumpkin who, in spite of her education, had never beheld such natural magnificence.
He must surely think me a country bumpkin, but I can’t help it. I am so out of my element here. What will these grand people think of me? Fawn’s hands began to perspire as a tremor of trepidation swept over her. I can’t do this. I’ll make a fool of myself. Run, Fawn, run.
It was too late. Joel had stepped out of the carriage and was at her side, offering his hand to help her down. Fawn searched his eyes, feeling perhaps a hint of disapproval in them, as her eyes felt as if they were so large as to pop out of their sockets. She took a deep breath, reached for the umbrella, held it out under the canopy, opened it, and offered her other hand to Joel. What was that song Nana sang so often? No Turning Back.
Joel rapped on the front door. It was barely a few moments before a blond-haired little girl in pigtails and pink ribbons holding them tight answered swung the door wide. “Hi, Mr. Taylor. We’ve been expecting you. Please come in.” She’s been coached well, Joel thought.
Deanna Wiley soon stood behind her daughter. She shook Joel’s hand and greeted him with a sisterly kiss on the cheek. Then she extended her hand to Fawn.
“You must be Fawn. I’ve heard so much about you. Welcome to our home.” She led the pair into the sitting room while the meal was being prepared.
Fawn wondered how this lady could have heard so much about her when she herself had only met Mr. Blackman that very morning. What could he possibly know about her? What could he possibly have told the Wileys about her? She realized she had been unconsciously tumbling her fingers over each other. She smoothed her dress to sit down on the divan and purposely folded her hands in her lap.
The sitting room was not elegant, but modern and tasteful. The bay window behind her was wide with sheer white curtains pulled to the center. Those were behind the peacock blue curtains which had been pulled to the sides and tied back by fabric of the same color with what appeared to be gold buttons to hold them in place.
The room was small and square, containing the divan which occupied the space in front of the bay window, and opposite that were two chairs which Fawn presumed were Queen Anne. The divan was upholstered in a floral pattern of muted reds and forest greens. The two chairs were upholstered in plain colors: one mauve, the other pea green. A grandfather clock adorned the windowless wall to ...