Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction and intended only for entertainment purposes. I do not own the rights to Christy the TV series, novel or the pax movies. I do not seek profit for this, only reviews.
A/N: Here it is the final chapter! Thank you for all of your reviews and to all of you who read anonymously. Now comes the moment of truth. I can write a sequel or continuation of Christy's story but would like to hear your comments before I begin. So if you have not reviewed my work yet but have been following the story, now is the time to let me know what you think.
I awoke with a start before dawn on Tuesday, August 11th, five days before I was to become Mrs. MacNeill. I could feel the sticky air stirring in from the open windows. It was going to be a miserably sticky day again. I flung the limp sheet off of me. I knew better than to try for another hour of sleep. I couldn't shake the ominous feeling I got from the dream that had awoken me for the past two mornings. That dream made my sleep as uncomfortable as the humidity made my waking hours. I leaned out the window observing the gray dawn and thinking about the dream. One thing I knew for certain, the dream had nothing to do with my impending marriage. I had a feeling it had to do with those newspapers that Ben Pentland had recently been bringing to the mission house. The Knoxville papers for several weeks now had been threaded with stories from Europe. Though not front page news, I got the feeling that something more sinister could be found looming there in the short second or third page stories.
In my dreams, I find myself walking a familiar trail when a sudden thick fog swallows me up. I can't see my own hand outstretched before me and I feel slightly panicked. This heavy fog is lit up with vibrant flashes of orange and red. There is a thunderous roar which sounds familiar but yet completely unknown. Through the fog I can barely see another mist of sorts snaking its way on the ground towards me. The strange yellowish mist comes upon me quickly; it makes my lungs burn and I gag. In a blink of an eye, the heavy fog, stinging mist, and flashes of light are gone. Every thing on the trail before me is the same as it was and I had not moved an inch. Then came the part of the dream that always woke me; though everything seemed the same, I got the distinct feeling that the whole world around me had changed and not in a good way.
I shivered despite of the humidity and pulled myself from the window. I chided myself for letting my dream shake me so; I needed to be doing other things. I dressed and went downstairs to start breakfast. Ida was often too ill in the mornings to prepare food for everyone in the mission house, so I took over that chore. After breakfast I would go to Neil's cabin and start to clean up a bit before my parents arrived tomorrow. Then I had to finish packing up the things in my room that I would not need in the next five days. On the third floor of the mission house, I needed to sweep the floor and put the fresh bed linens that I had laundered yesterday on the cots to make ready for my parents as well. Somewhere in the course of the day I might get to spend a moment alone with Neil. I could not recall the last time I spent more than five minutes alone with him since before the graduation.
By the time I served breakfast, the dream that had awoken me was far from my thoughts. I hefted the heavy coffee pot up from the stove and managed to grasp the large bowl of buttered grits at the same time into the dining room. I could never fathom how Ida managed to feed everyone at promptly seven-thirty every morning. She was a wonder. I retrieved a heaping plate of bacon and ham and carried into the dining room as Marcus entered.
"Good morning Christy. So how's the blushing bride on this sticky morning?"
"I'm not a bride just yet, I have five more days. And I'm hot and sticky and probably will be all day. Not to mention that I will be covered with dust and cobwebs. Are you going to help Neil move his laboratory today?"
"If I get a chance, I will. There's a few patients that I'm checking on for Neil and one appointment at the clinic. Ruby Mae is bringing Christy Anne in for a regular check up."
"Hard to believe you were so afraid of that little child when she made her grand entrance."
"Just you wait until its your turn, Missy. Then the tables will be turned." Marcus said mockingly as he pulled out a chair for himself. "What have we got this morning? Grits again!"
"Sorry, I just can't get Ida's buckwheat cakes to turn out right. They're either too runny or I burn them black. So grits will have to do until Ida's morning sickness passes or the new teacher comes. Hopefully, she can cook on that ornery stove."
"Poor Neil is going to starve."
I swatted at Marcus with a towel I had tucked into my apron. "I can do just fine and you know it. Neil MacNeill is in no danger of starving at my hand, Mr. Black."
"I know, I know, you don't have to beat it home."
Minutes later Marcus and I were joined by Bird's Eye and Pastor James and a little later still, Miss Alice.
"Alice are you going to fetch the new teacher today?" Pastor James asked as he handed her a mug of coffee.
"Yes, I am."
I was shocked. "She's coming today? Oh, but I have so much to do today. Where on earth is she going to stay?" I started to get up from my seat, but Miss Alice's firm hand on my shoulder kept me still.
"Christy child, sit down. Miss Stokley is well aware of all that is going on here this week. She can share your room until the night before your wedding, then she shall stay with me in my cabin. We won't be back until late this afternoon, barring any ill weather. There is nothing to worry thy head about."
I took a deep breath. Miss Alice always could calmly reason through the most difficult situations, except when it came to Pastor James that is. I got a sudden pang of, could it be homesickness when I hadn't even left yet? I would miss my evening talks with Miss Alice. Ever since I came to the mission, I felt as if she were my surrogate mother. I could turn to her when I could not turn to my own mother. In many ways, Miss Alice seemed to know more of the way the world worked than my own mother. I left the breakfast table to ready Buttons for the ride to what would be my new home in five days.
As I arrived at Neil's cabin, I saw that David had already arrived to help Neil move the laboratory. Pastor James would also come along with Marcus later. I approached the open front door quietly and leaned in to watch the two men. I knew that before I arrived in Cutter Gap the two of them had been friendly, but ever since the moon-shining flap and David's interest in me, they grew somewhat distant. I was glad to see that the tension between them had smoothed over since David had left the mission house and married. My observations did not last long because Neil noticed me standing in the doorway. He came over and gathered me in his arms.
"Good morning my dear heart Are you ready to get acquainted with your new home before your parents arrive tomorrow?" He kissed my cheek several times before I could answer.
"I'm ready to do a thorough cleaning if that's what you mean."
"Why that's the very best way to get acquainted with a place, by cleaning it."
I could hear David's chuckle. "Or fix it up. Sometimes, I think I'm more familiar with the roof of our cabin than I am with Opal."
"Apparently Opal may disagree with you there, David. You've got to be careful with her now." At Neil's stern words to David, I felt my brows furrow.
"What's wrong with Opal?"
David smiled at me. "Opal's in a family way. Doc was just making sure that I take good care of her since she was anemic after her last birth. Don't worry your head about it Christy, I'm taking good care of her and will make sure she is enrolled in the new mother's group at the clinic. I suspect that she and Ida will be there together."
"That's wonderful news David! I'll have to see her soon." I knew with David there, Opal could not hold many of the old time superstitions. I really hoped she was going to have a girl. She deserved one. "Speaking of family Neil, your going to have to tell me who you are related to. Your going to have to explain what a Cutter Gap family tree looks like."
"Well it's not the straight trunk like most flatlanders assume, but rather a group of trees with the limbs of each family intertwined tightly together. I'll explain it all sometime, but we've got work to do. Come, let me help you fetch some water from the new pump. I can't have my new wife struggling down to the river to get water now can I."
"But isn't it the woman's job to get the water?"
"My dear, I don't think that our household is going to function like the rest of the Cove. We're going to be a bit unconventional. Perhaps a partnership of equals with become the norm here after a while."
"Do you really think so?"
"With you by my side, any thing is possible." Neil bent down to kiss me firmly on the lips. I returned his kiss with equal fervor. Suddenly those five days until our wedding seemed like five hundred years. I longed for the day I could explore the depths and heights of physical love between man and wife. Reluctantly, I pulled my lips from his, dizzy and breathless.
"Neil, we're not going to get any work done acting like this." I sat the bucket under the new pump. Neil grasped the handle of the pump and began to pump. As the water began to flow, he stopped and regarded me with one of his puzzling looks.
"Are you sure Christy, that you want to make a home here? It's not going to be easy, living here. Don't do it just because that's what you think I want. I'll be happy where ever you are. You're my heart, so I'll go where ever it leads me."
"I really want to stay here. For years and years. Nothing could make me happier than staying here forever with you."
"Promise me that if you become unhappy here, you'll tell me?"
"I promise. Now help me get this water warmed."
"I'll get it warmed for you. I can't let you see your wedding gift just yet."
"Wedding gift? I never thought to get you one."
"Now, now. There's no need. You're a gift enough for me."
I spent much of the day dusting, sweeping and scrubbing the puncheon floors. I caught Neil looking at me while I was kneeling on the floor scrubbing it clean. He smiled at me when he noticed me noticing him. I would have given a hundred dollars to anyone who could tell me what his thoughts were. Marcus and Pastor James stopped by at lunch bringing some sandwiches Ida had prepared with them. David and Neil were making slow progress moving the laboratory. I had no idea it contained so many items. Their progress improved with more help. Shortly after lunch, I took my leave from the men so I could do more sweeping and dusting and scrubbing at the mission house. By the time dinner was ready, every limb of my body ached and it felt like I had an inch of dust caked on top of my sweaty skin. I did not feel or look like someone who was getting married in a few days.
As Ida, Bird's Eye and I sat down to eat, we were interrupted by the sound of horses. Miss Alice had arrived with the new teacher and probably had met Pastor James on the trail. We all got up to greet them. Through my weary eyes, I discerned that Miss Sally Stokley was a warm and friendly lady. She had an abundant mass of dark blonde curls, shimmering green eyes and an inviting smile. She was like a friend you haven't met yet. I showed her to what would become her room when I moved out and we went back down for dinner.
Before bed, I scrubbed as much of the grime off of my face and arms as I could. I'd work on taking a bath before my family arrived. I wanted to talk to Sally a bit more before I went to sleep.
"Sally, Miss Alice said that your sort of local. Where are you from then?"
"I'm just over the river in Centerport. My father owns a store there. You're from Asheville, right?"
"Yes, but Cutter Gap's been my home ever since I left. I hope to make it my home for a long time."
"I'm glad your getting married, so I can introduce myself to everyone at once. Do you think they'll like me, Christy? Christy?"
I could hear her but was slipping fast into a deep sleep. I slept deeply until that same old dream woke me again in time to make breakfast. Today, I was going to attempt a nice sausage gravy to serve over the left over biscuits from last night. Marcus should be happy at least. I drew some water to heat for my bath and readied the tub on the screened in back porch.
After breakfast, I enjoyed a glorious half-hour to myself. I felt better, well at least cleaner than I had before, but still my mind was busy with all that needed to be accomplished in the next four days. I went to my room and began packing up more of my items to haul over to Neil's when my parents were going over later. Miss Alice knocked on the door frame some time later.
"I just wanted to know if thee were going to be able to attend to one more sewing circle before thy wedding?"
"Of course I can. When did you plan on having it?"
"I'll try. Could I bring Mother?"
The next few hours flew by in a blur. Neil had picked my family up from the station that morning and immediately Mother and I went to Miss Alice's sewing circle. Mother brought a large package with her. I left my Father and George in care of Neil who still had some things to move at the cabin. I did warn Neil not to let Marcus spend too much time with George. I couldn't handle those two getting into mischief before my wedding.
To my surprise, the sewing circle was really an impromptu bridal shower for me. Miss Alice knew that it was important to my mother and would be deemed a successful sort of social gathering in the Cove. Clara and Zady Spencer had pieced together some of Fairlight's quilt pieces into a small quilt the size of a throw. Everyone wished me well. Miss Alice presented me with a lovely linen handkerchief with delicately embroidered flowers.
"It was to be Margaret's on her wedding day. Thee knows the rest of the story, so I give it to thee with the fondest of wishes."
"Thank you Miss Alice. I know how much this means to you."
"Just a token of how much thee means to me."
After several of the ladies had left, Mother produced the package she had brought with her. I opened the box and pushed aside the wrapping tissue to reveal the most beautiful wedding dress I had ever seen. As I pulled it from the box I saw that it had a scooped neckline and a dropped waist, which was in keeping with the latest fashion. The creamy white silk under dress was trimmed with lace inserts at the hem. The over dress was a sheer white silk chiffon with mid-length sleeves and beautifully embroidered all over with pale blue flowers. I gasped as did Opal and Ruby Mae.
"Go try it on Christy. It should fit perfectly. I hope it isn't too fancy."
"Oh, Mother it's simply perfect! It is a little more fancier than I wanted but that doesn't matter." I rushed off to Miss Alice's room to try it on. Opal and Ruby Mae followed to help me.
"Hit's the purtiest dress I ever did see, Miz Christy." Ruby Mae sighed as she help me lift the dress over my head.
I stood and admired the dress as Opal closed the delicate buttons in the back.
"It fits perfectly." Opal seemed pleased since she helped get all the measurements so we could send them to my mother. "Well now that we're all back here together, if there's any thing ye needed to know about the wedding night? Ruby Mae and I kin answer them for ye."
"Actually, I think I can handle this one on my own. Just be there for my mother when they take us away to the cabin."
"Are you sure, Miz Christy? I was narvous on my weddin night."
"I think I'm ready. After all, I will be under a doctor's care." We all giggled at that and left the room to show Mother, Ida, Sally and Miss Alice the dress. After everyone had a chance to admire the dress, I took it off and carefully repacked in the box.
Before dinner that evening, father produced several days' worth of newspapers from Asheville. Again that nagging, gnawing feeling from that dream overtook me. The articles had grown in size and placement in the paper. They were no longer confined to far sections, but now overran onto the front page. One recent one, had stated of President Wilson's want to stay neutral in the European war.
"Father, do you really think that the United States can stay neutral, like President Wilson says? I mean Belgium was neutral too and that didn't stop the Germans."
"We have no business interfering in Europe. They can handle there own problems like they have for years. Don't worry your head about it Girlie. Little disagreements like this one have been happening on and off since before you were born." But his words nor those in the newspaper could totally remove that uncomfortable feeling.
At long last, Sunday August 16th 1914, had arrived. The day dawned fresh and clear. The storms from yesterday swept the humidity of the past days from the mountains like sticky cobwebs. Mother and Miss Alice dotted on me in the morning, bringing me breakfast and preparing a bath for me. Everyone else who was up to it, were preparing the church with flowers or setting up the long boards making ready for the food. Today I would leave the mission house a Miss and return much later as a Mrs. I felt the excitement rising in me.
Ruby Mae and Opal along with an adorable Christy Anne, helped me dress.
"Let's see here now. Ye's got somethin blue and new in yer dress. Ye's got something old in the handkerchief Miss Alice gave ye. What's we missing?"
"Something borrowed, Mrs. Grantland." My Mother entered the room and handed me a small velvet box. Inside I found Grandma Rudd's ear bobs. "She lent them to me on my wedding day. She's lending them to you for your special day." I slipped the wires through the tiny holes in my ears with some difficulty since I didn't wear earrings often.
"Thank you Mother. I'm sorry she couldn't come."
"She's here in spirit. Are you ready? We don't want to keep your groom waiting."
With that, they helped me down the stairs and parted from my side a few steps from the church where my father was waiting. I could see the church was full. I was glad the dress did not have a very full skirt like Ida's had otherwise I might get stuck in the sea of people. The church was decorated with many beautiful wildflowers and showy wild roses. My simple bouquet was also of wild roses, tied by a blue satin ribbon.
Father walked me down the aisle toward Neil, who was resplendent in a new suit and tie, and Pastor James who was to perform the ceremony. I felt my eyes fill with tears as my father joined my hand to Neil's, but as soon as I looked up into Neil's steady hazel eyes, they stopped. I was not leaving my family at all, just adding to it and making it happier.
"Friends, we are gathered together on this fine day in God's House to witness the uniting of two people in love. Their road has been hard, but together they shall overcome all obstacles before them, guided by God's love and supported by one another. Neil are you ready?" Neil nodded and took a deep breath.
"I, Neil, take thee, Christy, to be my wife and loving partner on the journey of our lives. I will keep you strong in times of weakness, cheer you when you are sad, heal you when you are hurt and face life's challenges with you, holding your hand. In the the presence of God, friends and family, I pledge my heart to yours for all eternity. Take this ring as a symbol of my promise that I have made to you this day. It is without end, like my love for you." Neil slipped the shiny gold band on my finger, snug against the one he placed there months before.
"Christy, are you ready?" I nodded my head. I heard myself begin tearily at first then my voice grew stronger as I finished my vow.
"I, Christy, take thee, Neil, to be my husband and loving companion on the journey of our lives. I will keep you strong in times of weakness, cheer you when you are sad, heal you when you are hurt and face life's challenges with you, holding your hand. In the the presence of God, friends and family, I pledge my heart to yours for all eternity, for love knows no bounds, not even in death. Take this ring as a symbol of my promise that I have made to you this day. It is without end, like my love for you." I pushed the ring on Neil's finger and hoped that Mother had gotten the right size. I prayed that the gold band would slip easily over his large knuckle. I held my breath as I slipped it on and it fit like it had always been there.
"I now pronounce you, husband and wife. What God has joined together in love, let no man tear asunder. Neil it's about time for you to kiss your lovely wife."
Neil bent down and kissed me firmly and I answered his kiss with one of equal but subdued passion. Even though it was one of our more chaste kisses; it was still exciting nonetheless. It was our first kiss as husband and wife. We would save our more passion-filled kiss for later. We went out of the church amid great whoops and cheers from our audience.
The rest of the afternoon was absolutely perfect. It was unimaginable how much food had been prepared and brought to share at our celebration. We both danced with just about everyone in the whole Cove, but there was one man I wanted to share my dances with forever. Out of the corner of my eye as I spun through an intricate dance on my husband's arm, I saw Miss Alice sharing a dance with Pastor James. It was not typical for a practicing pastor to dance, but then it was not everyday that the only doctor in the area got married. I also saw my baby brother asking Lizette Holcombe for a dance. I thought I saw him making cow eyes at her during lunch, now I was sure he was smitten. It looked like our new schoolteacher was not going to stay single long. Marcus looked like he was positively smitten with Sally as they danced together.
As the day wore close to evening and the lively tunes diminished into slow, longing ballads, I rounded up all the single ladies of the Cove to have a bouquet toss. This was one Asheville tradition I wasn't going to miss out on.
"Miss Alice you are going to join that group of ladies out there, aren't you? You wouldn't want to disappoint the bride on her special day, right?" I asked as I gently nudged her toward the others.
"No, I suppose not."
"Good, then go join them."
I waited for her to join the group, then turned my back to them and counted to three. I tossed my lovely bouquet in the air, high above my head. I turned around in time to see it unquestionably land in Miss Alice's hand, like it was guided there by some Divine force. The look of amazement on her face was priceless.
Without further delay, I was surrounded by Ruby Mae, Opal, Ida and some other ladies. I knew what was coming and put up just enough of a fuss to draw attention to myself. They led me to a decorated a wagon amid my mock shrieks of protest. A group of men were doing the same to Neil. I looked back to see Mother red-faced with horror, but Bird's Eye, I could see, was calmly explaining to her the principle of this mountain custom, at which point, Mother's face grew even more embarrassed. Oh, if only I could hear his words to her! I was sure to here about it later.
Neil and I were deposited into the wagon together. Our driver was Jeb Spencer. As he clicked to the horses, the wagon lurched forward. Neil gave me a kiss to start our journey and we waved to the lingering crowd. Everyone would stay to nearly nightfall until the supplies of food and music were exhausted.
"Now mind ye two. No carryin on til ye git to the cabin, ye hear back thar? Cain't have the horses spooked A couple of the wimmin folk came by and put out a nice spread fer ye. Made the place look right nice too."
We arrived at our cabin in no time. Jeb waved as he left. Neil carried me across the threshold. He showed me my new wedding gift, a brand new cook stove. Now there would be no more excuses for burnt pancakes for breakfast. I had to laugh. Neil led me by the hand to our new bedroom. It was furnished with the same bed and chests, but the room was more spacious than before.
"I am so happy. You have no idea how happy you have made me, Christy. I can't begin to tell you."
"Then don't tell me, Neil, show me. Show me how much I mean to you."
In the next moment, as Neil's kisses trailed down my neck and traveled lower, I felt as if the world had stopped along with my breath. As the delicate buttons on my dress were undone by Neil's hand and my dress fell away, everything felt right with the world, or at least in this small cabin in Cutter Gap. In that moment nothing else mattered but Neil and I.