For Amber for the August Fic Exchange on HPFC.
What's Meant to Be
They met by chance. She was walking in the market with her father and brothers, her tidy curls a rush of fire trailing behind her in the breeze. Her cream colored bonnet and gown contrasted vividly with her warm chocolate eyes and the dusting of caramel freckles across the bridge of her nose. Their eyes met across the market and he nearly dropped the large burlap sack of flour he was unloading from the wooden cart he had rode in from his family's farm. She smiled sweetly at him and he was certain his heart skipped a beat. He felt his cheeks flush red as he tilted his cap and nodded his head.
She was the daughter of a merchant sailor. That nearly broke his heart. He had been so certain that day he seen the love of his life but, there was no way he could ever catch the eye of such a maiden. She would have many wealthy men asking for her hand and he was just a lowly farm boy… nothing but a peasant to the likes of her and her family.
Today he was selling corn and potatoes. He had managed to sell all of his bags of flour the previous Saturday and his father had been so pleased he had once again sent him to the market with a cart full of items to sell.
He had just sold five ears of corn and four potatoes to a young woman in a black dress and bonnet when they arrived. That day they brought their carriage, an elegant white coach drawn by two stunning palominos. One of the twin brothers exited first, his short red hair slicked back perfectly. He stood at the bottom of the stairs and held out his hand for his sister. She exited slowly, stepping down from the carriage as she grasped her brother's hand. She wore a flowing burgundy gown with cream lace and a matching bonnet atop her fiery curls. She waited while her father and brother exited the carriage before beginning her walk through the market.
He tore his eyes away from her, turning his attention toward a customer. The elderly woman bought five potatoes and two ears of corn. He tucked the coins she had handed him into his leather money bag as she walked away carrying her goods.
He glanced up to find the woman who had enraptured his thoughts for the last week smiling brightly at him.
He smiled back, standing up straighter. "Can I help you miss?"
"I would just like to buy some corn and potatoes but, I was hoping you could help me carry them back to my carriage."
"Certainly." He grabbed a burlap sack from the cart and waited as she filled the sack with potatoes and corn. He thanked her when she handed him the ten gold coins.
He followed her to the carriage, loading the bag into the small compartment on the back.
"Thank you for your kindness." Her smiled remained.
"It was my pleasure milady." He bowed slightly and felt a wave of pride as her cheeks flushed.
"Molly darling, whatever are you doing?" One of her twin brothers approached her, a look of disgust etched across his handsome face.
"I just bought some corn and potatoes for dinner dear brother. You needn't worry so much."
"I will always worry when I see my sister in the company of some. . . stranger."
Arthur did not retort. If nothing else he knew his place and it would do him or his family no favors to land on the bad side of a wealthy merchant or his sons. Instead he turned his attention to the redhead. "I hope you find your dinner satisfactory miss." He bowed at the waist before trotting back to his stand where a customer waited to buy potatoes.
When he looked up he was surprised to see Molly watching him. She waved her fingers gingerly and smiled sweetly. He nodded in response, smiling too.
She came to his stand every time he came to the market. She bought apples, cabbage, potatoes, corn, flour, nuts, and carrots. Every time she asked him to carry the fruits and vegetables back to their carriage and he always agreed.
That Saturday was no different. She had just purchased a sack of potatoes, cabbages and carrots, claiming they would be having a stew. He couldn't care less about what she planned on doing with the items, as long as he got to see her.
But that Saturday was different. She handed him the correct amount of coins in a leather pouch before leading him to their carriage. She had purchased two extra carrots for the horses.
"Thank you, Arthur. You are always quite the gentlemen."
"I could never expect you to carry all of these vegetables to your carriage."
"I expect you will be here tomorrow?" she said as she fed one of the palominos, stroking it's next affectionately.
"Of course. I will be selling apples and walnuts."
"Oh wonderful. I will be able to make my father an apple cake before he sets sail for America."
"Ameirca? That is the quite the journey."
"Yes and Fabian will be going with them. Although that does not sadden me at all, I will do well to have some time away from my brother. "
"Must stay and handle business at home." She took the second carrot and began to feed it to the larger of the two horses as she fondled its mane.
"Of course, that would only make sense."
Molly smiled, "I will be having plenty of time to myself."
"I am sure you will find a way to preoccupy yourself."
"I already have an idea in mind. I hope it comes to fruition."
"I have the feeling that when you want something badly enough, you will get it."
She bowed her head slightly, a sly smile curving her full pink lips, "It seems you know me quite well, Arthur."
The red head glanced over her shoulder and smiled sweetly at the man waving her over. "Coming father." She clutched the skirt of her dress as she turned to walk away. "oh, Arthur."
"Yes?" He had begun to walk back toward his stand but halted at the sound of his name.
"Do make sure you check that I gave you the right amount of money. If not I will give it to you when I buy the apples and walnuts."
"Of course.' He smiled politely as she trotted over to her father, lacing her arm through his. She shot him a smile over her shoulder and he smiled back.
Once he had sold the last of his potatoes, carrots and cabbage he pulled out the small leather pouch. He knew the redhead had given him the right amount of money but he couldn't stand the idea of not doing what she asked. So he untied the dark brown strings and opened the pouch, pouring the contents of the pouch onto his lap. He counted the pile of gold, finding it to be accurate just as he had expected. He was sticking the coins back into the pouch when he felt it… .a small piece of paper stuck inside. He pulled it out and unfolded it.
Please meet me tomorrow night at the lake just outside of the market. I will be there at dusk after my father's ship sets sail. I hope to see you.
Arthur tucked the piece of paper into the pocket of his trousers. Certainly he could not meet the merchant's daughter late at night in a secret rendezvous. Not only was it scandalous it was selfish. She deserved a man who could provide the type of life she was accustomed to and, unfortunately, that man would never be him.
She came to the market the next day and bought her apples and walnuts. He carried her bag to the carriage as always.
"I trust everything was acceptable with my payment yesterday."
"Yes ma'am… everything was there."
"Lovely." Molly glanced over her shoulder. Her father and brothers were slowly approaching. "I suspect I will be seeing you again very soon."
Arthur bowed slightly and smiled. He tipped his hat to the three men as they approached before hurrying back to his stand. He watched as she climbed up into the carriage, glancing over her shoulder one last time to shoot him a sweet smile.
He couldn't possibly be thinking about meeting Molly Prewett at the lake that night? Could he?
The air was cool and crisp as he waited by the lake. He knew it was wrong. It was not fair to Molly or to him, that he came to meet her but, he could not help himself. She was intoxicating.
He glanced up at the sky, a blanket of black velvet dusted with diamonds.
He could never afford to buy Molly diamonds.
What was he thinking? This was wrong. He could not provide Molly with the life she was used to… the life she deserved.
He began to climb into his cart when the glowing light of a lantern caught his eye.
"Arthur, are you here?" Molly sang out into the darkness. He sighed and jumped off his cart. It was too late to turn back now.
"Yes, milady I am here." He called back, walking in the direction of the faintly glowing light.
She emerged from the brush, her bright red curls loose and falling about her neck and shoulders. She wore a black gown and carried an iron lantern. Her deep brown eyes gleamed in the flicker of the flames and his breath caught in a lump in his throat.
"For a moment I thought you had decided not to come." She sounded disappointed and he felt a pang of guilt in his stomach.
"This is not a good idea. This is not right. We should not be meeting in the middle of the night."
"This isn't something I could just talk to you about over potatoes. I fancy you. I want -
"Molly that is not a good idea we are not the same. . . you deserve -"
"I deserve a man who will treat me with love and respect . . . a man who is already ready to help me, fight for me, protect me. . . a man who will keep me safe. Tell me who would be a better a man for tha than you."
"But I am not able to provide - - - "
"Do you think I need so many fancy things to be happy? I do not ."
"and your family."
"I do not care what they say. I am my own person, my own woman and I want to be with you."
"Molly." She insisted. "Do you remember the first day we met?"
"Of course I do."
"So do you remember what you said to me…. Do you remember saying that I seemed like the type to always get my way…."
"Yes, of course I remember."
"You are right… and right now I want to be with you." Molly moved closer to him. Her small fingers gripped the collar of his button-down. She pulled him closer pressing her lips to his. He closed his eyes. She tasted sweet and smelled like roses. "Please Arthur." She whispered against his lips.
"As you wish my dear, Molly."
They continued to meet in secret for months. They grew closer, talking, kissing, gazing at the stars. It was beautiful and wonderful and Arthur couldn't help but feel it was too good to be true.
But he was in love.
So on that particular evening as he lay in the grass he pondered if he was making the right decision.
"Aruthr, my love. .. ." He saw the growing light of her lantern and rose to his feet. He had been sure to where his Sunday clothes. They were the nicest he had and they were what he needed for such an occasion.
"I am here, my love." He called.
She emerged from the bushes, in a dark emerald velvet dress. Her hair was secure at the nape of her neck with a golden clip. She smiled brightly at him, setting the lantern in the tall grass. In an instant her lips had overtaken his. His fingers tangled in her hair as he held her close to his chest.
"Molly I have a question for you."
"What is it my love?"
Arthur 's heat beat quacked as he grabbed the small leather pouch from his pocket. "I love you Molly Prewett. You are beautiful and intelligent and strong. You are everything I could have ever dreamed of all I none. You are perfection." He said sweetly. He reached up and wiped a stray tear away from her eye as he spoke. "Would you do me the honor of being my bride?" He held up his great grandmother's sapphire ring.
Molly gasped, her brown eyes gleaming with tears. "Yes. Yes absolutely"
"I know it is not much. –" He began as he slid the small ring onto her finger.
"It is perfect."
"And I am sorry I cannot provide you with everything you deserve."
"You are everything I want and need." Molly insisted, smiling brightly as he wrapped her in warm embrace, slowly spinning her beneath the stars.
Will always find a way.