Paint Me a Picture

Chapter Seventeen

While it had rained the night before, the sun had warmed up the day and by noon it was actually pleasant enough for a picnic, which is exactly what Jarrod and Ester were having. Ester sat against a tree eating a piece of chicken as a cool breeze blew through the air. She knew it wouldn't be long until the breeze would be too cold. After all, it was the first week of November; winter really wasn't that far away.

"What you think?" Jarrod asked as he chewed on an apple. He grinned when Ester shot him a slightly annoyed look. He was sure it was because he was talking while he was eating. Was it his fault he could sign and eat at the same time?

"I think time is passing too fast." Ester answered, as she looked up at the fluffy white clouds dotting the otherwise bright blue sky. She hadn't thought about it until that morning; her brother's job would be ending in a mere week. They were, as he'd said just that morning "almost ready to start heading home". During that time Jarrod had taken her to dinner, taken her to dances and picnics like this. They'd had one discussion after another and shared more than one laugh over a good story or joke, especially the ones played on his siblings. She hated to see it all end.

Jarrod stopped eating. Except for the two times he'd kissed her, he had not made a move on her or pushed her in anyway. He'd been afraid he'd frighten her off if he moved too fast. Only now, he realized if he didn't do something, she'd go back to Redwood City. He thought on the purchase he'd gathered the courage to make from the jewelry store the week before, the purchase that was still in his pocket because he'd balked afterwards. "Stay." He signed as moved just a bit closer to her.

Ester's eyes widened as her heart skipped a beat. He wanted her to stay in Stockton? She stood up and walked over to the pond, fighting to remain outwardly calm. It didn't take Jarrod long to be by her side and turning her to face him. After Beth had died, Jarrod had sworn he'd never get that close to anyone again. Now he kept his eyes on Ester's face as his hands signed in earnestness and his eyes shone with anticipation. "Don't go. Stay here."

Jarrod reached into his pocket and pulled out the small box that had been weighing, Ester's eyes widened. She couldn't believe what she was seeing. "Is that what I think it is?" She said only to herself, as she didn't want to assume anything. When she did that, Ester usually wound up feeling like an idiot.

When Jarrod opened up the box, revealing the prettiest diamond ring she'd ever seen, Ester's hands flew to her mouth and she gasped. He took a hold of her one wrist, brought her hand down and laid the box in her hand. Afterwards, he signed, "Stay here. Love you. Marry me."

Ester's head was reeling as she again looked at the oval shaped diamond sparkling up at her. Tears started running down her cheeks. Jarrod's heart skipped a beat. He didn't know whether her reactions were good or not. He made the sign he and she had picked to represent her name and then asked what was wrong.

"Nothing! Absolutely nothing!" she cried as she threw her arms around his neck and held on tight. "You bet I'll marry you. I'll marry you a hundred times over if you want!"

Jarrod didn't care if it meant having to hear a bunch of garbled sounds, he stood up, as did Ester, let out a loud cry of delight and swung his bride to be around in circles. When he stopped, their faces were inches apart. "I love you, Ester Mandrel." Jarrod spoke the words though they were nowhere near understandable. It didn't matter though; Ester still understood the meaning behind the noise.

"I love you too." She whispered as she reached up and took a hold of the sides of his face. That did it. Jarrod pulled her close and kissed her with everything he had. By the time they parted Jarrod was wishing they could just elope. Only he knew better, Ester had mentioned the fact that while she did not want a huge wedding the day she married, she did want one.

"Picnic over. I take you home." Jarrod signed and then took her by the hand.

Ester knew he meant her home and she knew it was a bit wicked on her part, only she didn't resist the urge to tease him. "I would think that at least your mother would object to my moving in with you just yet. I mean, she wasn't too pleased when I backed you up on simply signing, unless you decided different."

Jarrod started laughing, again not caring about the garbled sounds that came out. "My wife soon." He signed and then pulled her to him. He held her close, but dared not kiss her again. He just knew if he did they'd be having a shotgun wedding, and he didn't want that for her. After a few moments, he let her go. They wasted no time in cleaning up and heading back into town and to the home she shared with her brother.

When Jarrod pulled the surrey to a stop in front of the simple two bedroom home Ester shared with Scott, he and Ester were startled to see Fred and Charlie, Fred's new deputy, talking to one very rattled Scott. Fred stopped talking as Jarrod helped Ester down.

"What wrong?" Jarrod signed while Ester translated.

Fred wished he'd had been better luck in learning sign language; he'd have like to be able to sit down with Jarrod and talk to him one on one with no one present. As it was, he was far too busy. "The museum was broken into last night and robbed. It's the fourth robbery this month. We thought we had a lead this morning, but it led to a dead end."

Jarrod's face showed his shock, as did Ester's. "Then why are you here now?" Ester asked before Jarrod could sign the same question.

"We're just trying to see if anyone saw anything is all. Don't suppose you were in your office late last night and saw anything suspicious?" Fred looked at Jarrod and asked.

"In office." Jarrod signed as he ran a quick review of the night before. The only person he'd seen was Sean Archer, and the man had been walking calmly towards his house. He would not call that suspicious. "Sorry, saw nothing not normal." His frustration at not being able to help Fred showed in his stressed out eyes. The lawman understood and excused himself and his deputy.

Scott watched as both Ester and Jarrod's curious expressions dissolved and transformed into radiating happiness. He finally took time to look down at his sister's hand. He felt like someone hit his heart as it seemed to stop and then he let out a holler and slapped Jarrod on the back. "Way to go! Congratulations you two!"

"Lower voice." Jarrod signed very forcefully. "Not tell family yet. Come tell you, you closer. Now, we go tell my family." He slid his arm around Ester unable to stop beaming from ear to ear. Scott laughed and told the two lovebirds to get on their way. Even if he wanted to see Jarrod's family's reaction, he had work to do.

Jarrod helped Ester back in the surrey and started down the street. As they pass the Hardware store, Jarrod saw Sean and Chris talking next to the store and glancing towards the alley. He stiffened as he realized he'd gotten so busy the evening he'd followed Sean into the alley and the next day, he'd completely forgotten to talk to Brigham or any of his brothers. Maybe, with a fourth robbery happening, it was time he remembered.