More than Relations

Her lips pressed against his powerfully, while his hand, wrapped around her waist, brought her closer to his body. Rachel felt on top of the world, savoring the toe-curling kiss, which made her whole skin tingle with excitement and bliss. She and Ben had been courting for months now, and even though both of them had left behind their youth long ago, Rachel felt like a teenager in love. Her feelings for Ben were powerful, and she hadn't felt so strongly for anyone since her husband died over sixteen years ago. Ben was a bachelor, and they had met at the town social. Rachel did not know what was so special about Ben, but he had swept her off her feet since the first moment they met.

The kiss grew in intensity, and as Rachel let herself be lost in the moment, the sound of soft giggles reached her ears, and she pulled away. Rachel directed her eyes to the end of the alley where she and Ben had been sharing their hot kisses. From where she stood, the schoolteacher could see two little heads, peeking from the corner. The teacher narrowed her eyes in annoyance, and with resolute steps she marched to the spot. Crossing her arms over her bosom, she looked down at the two spies with a stern expression, and said, "What are you two doing? Shouldn't you be at home by now?"

Ike shrugged his shoulders while Matt said, "You shouldn't be embarrassed, Aunt Rachel. When people are in love, kissing is a natural thing to do."

Rachel heard Ben chuckle by her side. After sharing a covertly amused look with him, the woman shifted her eyes back to the child, and added, "Where did you learn that, Matt?"

"My ma told me," Matt said matter-of-factly.

Rachel bit her lower lip to avoid laughing openly. Matt's words brought to her mind what Lou had related to her last week. Apparently, one morning, when they were supposed to still be sleeping, Matt and little Jed had walked into their parents' bedroom when they were in an almost compromising situation. According to Lou, the children had only seen them kissing passionately because fortunately, she and Kid were under the covers. She had quickly put her discarded nightgown back on, and took the children out of the room. Of course, later she had tried to explain to the children, especially Jed, what they had seen, why their parents weren't wearing their night clothes, and why pa looked as if he was biting ma's mouth. Lou had said she had sweated blood, trying to talk to her children about such a delicate subject, and answer their questions honestly. Rachel could understand how difficult her friend's talk with her children had been because sometimes her students really threw her with their curiosity, and more than once she had been left speechless by one of her young charges.

"You love Mr. Dawson, don't you?" Ike asked, smiling brightly.

Blushing, Rachel shared a look with her beau, and said, "That's none of your business, young man, but well… yes, I… I have feelings for him."

"And you're going to marry him, Aunt Rachel? Are you? Ma also said that when a man and woman love each other, they have to marry."

Rachel blushed even more, and this time she did not even dare to look at Ben. "Matt, Matt," Rachel said, shaking her head and trying to sound unaffected, "You shouldn't ask that, honey."

"Why not? It's just a question," Matt replied.

"That's true, Rachel. It's just a question," Ben added. Rachel stared at him with a puzzled expression, feeling her face flame, and when she did not try to speak, Ben urged her, "So what is it? Are you going to marry me or not?"

"I… I… I guess… I… I… think so… one day… sure… if you still love me… I…," Rachel stammered, not making much sense as the words stumbled out of her mouth.

"Yes or no, Rachel? It's a straight question he asked you," Ben insisted.

Rachel looked him into the eyes intensely, and whispered, "Yes."

Ben smiled. "That's what I wanted to hear," he said, and cupping her face in his hands, he brought her lips to his, kissing her softly. "I want to marry you too," he added in the same whispering tone. Rachel grinned, and from the corner of her eye, she noticed the boys muttering as they searched their pants and jacket pockets. Rachel heard Ike whisper 'I knew you had it! Was I right or not?', and when she turned to look at them, she found Matt's extended palm holding a velvet pouch.

"Thanks, boys," Ben said, taking the little pouch, and emptying its content in his hand. Rachel's eyes almost popped out when she noticed the ring. "Let's make it official then, don't you think, honey?" Ben asked. Rachel could not speak, or even breathe. He took her hand, pressed her against his lips, and then said, "Will you marry me then, Rachel?"

Her heart skipped a beat as his question kept repeating itself over and over in her head. Fear crept into her soul, but at the same time the warm feeling of joy permeated her whole self. Rachel was so moved that she could only nod 'yes' to his question. Ben let out a happy whoop, and after placing the ring on her finger, he kissed her once again. The children laughed, and clapped their hands, and when the two adults pulled away, Rachel asked, "So you planned all this?"

Ben smiled in admission. "I'm a bit of a coward when it comes to you, so I had to get me some help." Rachel chuckled, and he then turned to his two little helpers. "Very well done, boys." Both Ike and Matt beamed in obvious pride for the good deed they had done today. They liked Mr. Dawson, and now he would be part of their family.

"Well, let's drive these two young rascals home. There's a little something that we have to tell their parents, don't you think, Ma'am?" Ben said. Rachel was still speechless. She nodded, and hooked her arm through the crook of his. Then she almost felt walking on the clouds as they made their way to the wagon.

No sooner had Ben pulled over the wagon than the two boys jumped off, and started running, crying an indistinct chorus of cheers and whoops. Lou was outside, sweeping the floor of her wooden porch, and when she noticed the children, she stopped, left the broom, and took a few steps towards them. Matt and Ike reached her, and excitedly tried to tell her the big news, but all Lou could hear was a chaotic mix of words. "Boys, boys, what is it? I can't understand a word."

Rachel and Ben walked towards them hand in hand, and at the ruckus made by the boys' loud voices, Ellen had also come out of her own home in curiosity. Rachel waved at her, and motioned her to approach. When the couple stopped behind the children, who were bickering like usual, Ben said, "Boys, I thought we had a deal."

"Yes, it was me who got to tell!" Ike said energetically.

"But Mr. Dawson said you could tell everybody. But there's nobody here but my ma… It's my ma, and I got to tell her!" Matt protested.

"My ma is here too!" Ike added, pointing at Ellen who was approaching with slow steps.

Rachel knew that the boys would never get to agree on anything, so she decided to take the matter in her own hands. She waited for Ellen, and then she said, "Ben asked me to marry him, and I said yes."

"Oh Rachel!" Lou exclaimed in obvious delight, throwing her arms around her friend and hugging her. "I'm so happy for you!"

"Congratulations!" Ellen added, following Lou's example and embracing the couple.

"I was supposed to tell the news," Ike grunted when the hugs and congratulating words were over. The four adults chuckled at the boy's comment, and Ellen ruffled her son's dark hair affectionately.

"It's such a shame Kid and Buck are out of town," Ellen said. "My husband's always complaining he's the last one to learn everything, and this time will be true as well."

"I'll tell him!" Ike cried, jumping at the chance.

"Why don't we go inside and have some tea to celebrate?" Lou offered with a smile.

Rachel hesitated as she shifted her eyes to Ellen. Things between Lou and her long-term friend were cold and distant since Ellen had made some unfortunate comments about Louise and her husband. Rachel knew Ellen deeply regretted those words, but Lou had not been able to get past that. "We … the four of us?" Rachel asked, making a circular motion with her index finger.

Lou cast a serious look in Ellen's direction. "Sure. Why not?" she muttered in a flat tone.

"Uh… I… you'll have to excuse me… I… I'd love to celebrate with you, but I was in the middle of something at home that needs my full attention," Ellen said awkwardly.

"Don't worry. We'll have a proper celebration soon with everybody," Ben replied with a smile.

"Come on, honey. Let's go home."

Ike nodded, and followed his mother towards their house. Left alone with the adults, Matt felt bored, and also walked into his. When they were by themselves, Rachel could not help but ask, "Lou, when is this thing with you and Ellen going to stop? It's been months, and your attitude makes us all uncomfortable."

Louise instantly felt annoyed by her friend's comment. "Why the heck are you throwing this at me? I said we four could have that toast!"

"With so much enthusiasm that the whole earth shook under our feet!" Rachel said sarcastically. "I don't mean just now, Lou. You hardly ever say a word to her as if she were just thin air, and you brush off all her attempts to close the gap between you as well!"

"How could I act normally around that woman knowing that she thinks the worst of me? I heard it perfectly, and she thinks I'm pretentious, bossy, and relish in other people's miseries. That hurts, Rachel. I'm not perfect, and have many flaws, but I've never wished ill to my friends and the people I consider my family. What kind of person would I be if I just did that?"

"Lou, honey, I'm sure you must've misunderstood Ellen. I can't believe that's what she thinks," Rachel said softly, stroking Lou's arm in an affectionate way.

"You weren't there or heard her. I have no problems with her, but don't ask me to be her friend anymore, because I can't pretend."

Rachel had to relent because she had no further arguments to add. "All right," she simply said.

"Shall we go and have that toast?" Louise asked, changing the topic.

Rachel and Ben shared a look, and then the schoolteacher said, "Lou, do you mind if we put it off? Ben and I would like to have, you know, a private celebration… just the two of us. There'll be plenty of time to get together with the rest of the family."

"Oh…" Lou let out in obvious disappointment. "Sure, whenever you feel like it. Have fun then," she added, unable to hide her annoyance. She turned on her heel, and marched towards her house. As she walked along, she kept grunting in silence. It angered her to realize that Rachel, her all-time friend, was taking Ellen's side. Louise couldn't understand her reasoning. She had been insulted in the most outrageous way, and had a right to feel offended. And even if she wanted to fix her friendship with Ellen, Lou knew it wouldn't be the same. Her harsh words were etched on her mind, and she just couldn't forget. It would be impossible for her to feel any other way.

Lou stepped into her living room. Jed and Matt were playing together, and Ginnie, who was almost one now, was having her nap. Louise approached the crib, covered her baby's body with a soft blanket, and as she moved away, she said, "Boys, I'll start dinner now. If Ginnie wakes up, just call me, all right?"

The two children answered in unison as she disappeared into the kitchen. As she had said, Lou soon got down to working on tonight's dinner. From a platter she took some trout Kid and the boys had caught the day before, and started cleaning them in the sink. After a few minutes, the door creaked open, and Matt came in. "Hey, honey!"

The boy did not reply, just scanned the room with his sharp eyes, and when he saw a big plate of cookies, he grabbed one. "Matt, leave that cookie, or you won't have an appetite tonight at dinner."

"Please, Ma," the boy begged, and before getting an answer from his mother, he started nibbling at the cookie. Louise just shook her head, and continued cleaning the fish, a task she really hated because it left a horrible smell on her hands for days. After eating the cookie, Matt came closer to his mother. "Are Aunt Rachel and Mr. Dawson gone?"

"Yes, they had things to do," Lou replied casually.

"I like Mr. Dawson, and I think it's great he and Aunt Rachel are getting married, "Matt said. Lou nodded, and smiled. Matt threw a casual look out of the window, and saw his eldest sister in the company of Billy, walking side by side. "Ma?"

"Yes, honey?"

"You said that when a man and a woman are in love, they get married."

"That's right."

"So Aunt Rachel and Mr. Dawson are in love. That's why they kiss, hug, and all that… like you and Pa."

Lou couldn't help but smile, and among giggles she said, "Yes, I guess that's so."

Matt kept thoughtful for a while before asking his next question. "Ma, is Janey going to marry Billy? I've seen them kiss and hug, too."

Louise stopped, and dried her hands on her apron. "No, Billy's not gonna marry your sister, at least, not any time soon," she replied. It was public knowledge that Jane and Billy were sweethearts, and even though Lou thought they weren't old enough to know what they wanted, she had not been able to oppose. Billy had even asked Kid if it was all right if he courted Janey. Lou liked the way her husband had dealt with the matter. Kid had told Billy that they were too young for proper courtship, and they should get to know each other better. Even though the two youngsters had grown up together, now they were going through a period of many changes, and needed to cope with them before anything else. Billy had accepted Kid's recommendation. That was just the theory because in practice Lou knew that her daughter and Buck's son were practically courting.

"Why not, Ma?" Matt asked again.

"For starters, your sister is too young."

Matt frowned in confusion. "Do you have to be a certain age to get married?"

"Yeah, you need to be a grown-up, because it's not easy," Louise explained.


"Marriage is forever, honey, and you have to be sure you really want to be with that person all your life, so you need time to get to know the person you choose… I mean to really, really know them. Do you understand what I mean?"

"I guess so," Matt replied slowly, and after being thoughtful for a while, he added, "But Ma, a father, a mother, and a sibling are also forever, and you get them since birth. You can't choose, and you're a baby."

"It's different, honey. Your parents and siblings are your family," Lou replied.

"So Pa isn't your family?"

"Yes!" Lou exclaimed a bit too loudly. Matt's questions always gave her a headache, because whatever he asked her, she always ended in a non-return point. "It's just different… Anyway, your sister just can't get married. Billy's leaving for college in a few weeks, and when two people get married, they need a place of their own, and your sister and Billy don't have a cent."

"Why can't they live here with us?"

"I told you… a married couple lives alone because that's the way it is, all right? And please stop the questions for a while, honey. I really need to start dinner."

Matt nodded, and added, "I think I know why they have to live alone… because they don't want anybody to see them kiss. That's why Jane and Billy sometimes like to go to the hayloft."

Lou's face scrunched up unhappily. "Do they?" she couldn't help to say, and following the direction her son was looking at out of the window, she saw Jane and Billy disappear into the barn. Suddenly, she felt her face red and hot, realizing for the first time that her sweet Jane was not so young, and she was actually with a boy in the real sense. Lou had not given much thought to the idea that her daughter might be having the same feelings, desires, and passions as when she herself was young. Janey was a couple of years younger than Lou was when she started with Kid, but that did not mean that she did not feel the same. Maybe what she had thought of as an innocent thing between two teenagers was not so innocent. So without a single thought she turned to her son, and said, "Mattie, go and find your sister, and don't leave her side until I tell you so."

"But ma, they don't want me around."

"Do what I told you, all right?"

Matt nodded, reluctantly left the kitchen through the back door, and slowly made his way to the barn where he knew Janey and Billy would be whispering silly things, and acting like a couple of fools.

Lou was finishing dinner in the kitchen when she heard the door open and the loud voices of Matt and Jane resound in the living room. She quickly dashed into the living room to see what was happening, and noticed that Janey was barking angrily while the boy was also shouting back. "Hey, hey, what's going on here?" Lou cut them off, raising her voice over her children's.

Jane looked at her mother, and furiously said, "Matt has been following me all day like a lap dog, and doesn't leave me alone!"

"Oh yes… I know," Louise replied, and to her daughter's surprise, she added, "I asked him to."

"But… but why?" Jane asked, totally bewildered.

Lou did not answer, but turned her head to her son, and added, "Matt, go and wash up, and bring Jed with you. He's in your bedroom playing. We'll be eating dinner in a few minutes."

Louise walked a few more steps in the living room, and sat on the sofa. "Come here, Jane. We need to talk," she said, tapping the place next to her.

Jane made an unhappy gesture. When her mother said they had to talk, it usually meant a lecture. Jane did not even know what she had done this time, and it irritated her to still be treated as a child. She was fifteen, and her mother should have learned by now that she was a young lady, and not a child. "What is it?" Jane asked as she plunked down onto the sofa, crossing her arms over her chest in a defensive fashion.

"What were you doing with Billy in the barn, honey? Matt told me you lately like the hayloft a bit too much."

"Oh… that boy is nothing but a nosy, little…"

"Hold on," Lou cut off her daughter's angry reaction. "Just answer my question, and leave your brother alone."

"We just go there to talk… there are too many people around here all the time. The children are always bothering us," Jane replied.

"Honey, I wasn't born yesterday," Lou said pointedly. "I was also your age once."

"Ma, we ain't doing anything wrong. We like being together, especially since he's leaving soon, and we… we kiss, yes, but I don't think that's a sin!"

"That ain't the point, Janey. I just don't want you to rush… I still think you're too young for a sweetheart. Your father told Billy, but you've both ignored him completely."

Jane rolled her eyes. "Ma, we ain't children. You were just four years older than me when you married Pa!"

"At your age four years is a lot, honey. And things were very different for me," Lou explained as patiently as she could.

"I ain't planning to marry Billy, but I love him. Why do you have to make such a fuss about it? Is it because you're still angry at Aunt Ellen and want to get back at her for what she said?"

"That's not it!" Lou exclaimed. "I like Billy… I'm very fond of him, but I can't help worrying about you. I don't want you to end up heartbroken or disappointed. Even though you believe you know what you want, there's so much you still need to live. And I don't mean just you… but Billy too. Things are gonna change for him pretty soon. He's going to college in a few weeks, and will meet other people, have other experiences… things change when you're growing up."

"Are you saying Billy's gonna forgotten and left me for one of the girls he's going to meet in college? I don't believe that… he's special, we have something special going on," Jane retorted.

Louise sighed. "I ain't saying that. I just want you to be careful, that's all. Whether we want it or not, a woman is in a more vulnerable position in every sense of the world," Lou explained, and at Jane's frown, she added, "Believe your mother, Janey, because I know what I'm saying. When I was younger, I fooled myself, thinking we can get even with men, but at the end of the day we women are in the losing end."

"Ma, I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to tell me."

"Just be careful, all right?" Lou repeated in a very serious tone.

"And you shouldn't worry. Billy and I ain't doing anything wrong… honestly," Jane said, feeling her cheeks go red. Talking about these matters with her mother was too embarrassing, and she wished her ma would drop the subject. It was true that she and Billy weren't doing anything reproachable. When they were alone, they kissed, and Billy also caressed her arms, her back, or even her legs, but always over her clothes, and that was as far as they had got.

"I'm glad to hear that, and you know, you can talk to me whenever you feel like it, or there's something that worries you," Lou replied with a smile. Jane just nodded, and as steps coming down the stairs sounded in the room, the girl breathed out totally relieved. The appearance of Jed and Matt saved her from further questions, and awkwardness, and never before had she been so happy to have the most inopportune brothers in the whole world.

The church piano played the wedding march as Rachel walked down the aisle towards her groom, who waited at the altar with a bright smile. Teaspoon stood behind Ben since he would conduct the ceremony; he stared at his long-time friend with clear satisfaction.

Rachel slowly advanced between the pews, beaming happily at the familiar faces congregated in the church for her big day. Even though she was feeling ecstatic, she could not stop the butterflies in her stomach as she was about to join her life to Ben's forever. The notion was dizzying and she held onto Buck's arm tightly.

In the end, it had been Buck who walked her down the aisle. For weeks she had been torn, trying to make up her mind about who she would ask to give her away. She was as fond of Buck as of Kid, but she feared that if she chose one over the other, they would resent her, especially after the cold way their wives treated each other. Thankfully, Rachel's fears were put to rest when the two men talked to her, and suggested the flip of a coin should decide, and Buck had been the winner.

Rachel reached her beloved and the ceremony almost flew by. Soon they were pronounced husband and wife, and Rachel felt her heart swell with happiness as she kissed her new husband for the first time.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds and their guests headed for the ranch where they would be having a nice reception to celebrate the happy union. Since Rachel and Ben were acquainted with lots of people in Rock Creek, the yard on the ranch was swarming with people that wanted to congratulate the couple and express their good wishes with a present for their love nest.

Tables had been set around the property, and all of Rachel's lady friends had helped by bringing two or three dishes they had cooked at home. Rachel and her new husband sat at the big table surrounded by their friends and family. Despite the clash between Lou and Ellen, the rest did not let themselves be influenced by the women's bad relationship, and acted as normally as they could, ignoring the latent animosity in the air. Naturally, Ellen and Louise had sat at both extremes of the table, as far away from each other as possible.

Everybody had a toast to the newlyweds' happiness and then had a pleasant lunch as conversation flew all through the table.

"Tomorrow we're taking a train to Denver," Rachel explained when she was asked about their plans for their honeymoon. "As you all know, Ben's family couldn't make it for the wedding. His mother has been unwell and couldn't travel. So we're going to spend a few weeks there. I'm really looking forward to meeting my new family."

Ben smiled and squeezed his wife's hand under the table, silently thanking her generosity for sacrificing her honeymoon to be with his family. Yet, Ben had a surprise for her, and planned to save a week just by themselves in a little, off-the-track town. After all, they were not in a hurry to come back to Rock Creek. He was his own boss, and now that Rachel was a married woman she would not work in the school anymore and devote all her time to her husband and home.

The conversation soon changed to the topic that was most discussed in the Cross household, which was Billy's imminent depart to college. The boy was leaving the following Monday, and was both excited and gloomy at the same time. The prospect of college and being the first one in his family to achieve such an honor made him proud. Yet, the idea of leaving Janey filled him with too much sadness and even dread. They would have to be a part for too long, and even though Billy was certain of what he felt, he was afraid Jane would forget about him and fall in love with someone else.

When Billy finished answering everybody's questions, he threw a casual look at his side, where Jane sat, and he noticed her bleak expression. He could not help but feel pleased to realize that she was not happy to see him go either. Under the table he held her hand and caressed her soft skin with his thumb. The young couple locked eyes and shared a knowing, meaningful smile, which comforted them a bit from what they would have to face in just a week from today.

Later on in the day when the sun was low on the horizon, a band started playing, and the ample yard filled with couples dancing. The smaller children had long ago left the table, and were playing and ruining the new clothes their mothers had bought and dressed them in for the occasion.

"If you'll excuse me," Lou said, rising to her feet and holding a sleeping Ginnie in her arms. "I'll put this angel to bed. She's totally done."

"Let me go with you, honey," Kid volunteered, and his wife nodded with a smile.

As the married couple walked away, Cody, who had come to the wedding, started tittering with a naughty expression. "What's so funny, son?" Teaspoon asked in a serious tone.

"Those two," Cody replied, pointing his finger at the couple who had just left the table a minute ago. "They're so obvious. One would have thought that after so many years of marriage they would have cooled down. But I guess that they don't have many chances to have the house just for themselves."

Jimmy was laughing hard. "I wouldn't expect to see them for an hour."

"An hour? You must be kidding me. Kid wouldn't last more than…"

"Cody!" Ellen cried in a scolding tone, tilting her head pointedly at Jane, whose face was as read as a beetroot. Cody and Jimmy looked genuinely mortified as they realized they had forgotten about the girl completely.

Billy noticed his sweetheart's embarrassment, and decided to save her from further awkwardness. "Janey, shall we dance?"

Without lifting her eyes, the girl nodded, and hooking her arm around Billy's, they sauntered to join the dancing couples. When they started swaying to the music, Jane kept her eyes downcast, and Billy had to smile at her evident shyness.

"Janey, I wouldn't worry about what Uncle Jimmy and Cody have said."

The girl raised her eyes. "Do you think that they are right… that my parents are in my house… that they are…?"

"I don't know," Billy replied. "Your parents love each other, so it's natural."

"I know that, and I've always thought that they look nice together. But the idea that they are… that they are… It's disgusting! They're too old already!" Janey exclaimed totally shocked.

"Don't be such a prude, Janey."

"I'm not!" the girl retorted, slightly offended by Billy's accusation.

"Janey, that's a natural thing between a man and a woman. As a matter of fact, I sometimes hear my parents at night."

Janey kept quiet for a few seconds, just moving alongside him between the other dancing couples. After a while, she whispered, "Do you ever think about us two, you know, doing that?"

"Yes," Billy replied honestly. "Don't you?"

"I… I… I," Jane stuttered, blushing and unable to say a single word. Billy laughed at her shyness, and the girl felt her cheeks flush even more.

The song ended, and Billy intertwined his fingers against hers. "Come with me," he said, steering her away from the crowd of dancing couples.

"Where are we going?"

"Let's go to the barn," Billy replied.

At his words, Jane stopped short, making the boy halt too. "Billy, no, not the barn. You know what my mother thinks of us going there."

"Janey, your mother doesn't have to know, and I want to kiss you. Would you rather I kiss you here in public?"

Jane shook her head, and finally followed him in silence. Once in the barn they climbed the ladder to the hayloft as they usually did. Billy sat against the wooden wall, and Jane placed herself next to him. The boy leaned forward and captured her lips. Jane responded to the kiss, and wrapped her arms around his neck while his hands rubbed up and down her back. They kissed passionately until they were out of breath. Janey stared into his deep, brown eyes and said, "I'm gonna miss you so much."

"Me too," Billy whispered, caressing her cheek with the back of his hand.

"You aren't going to forget me, are you?" Jane muttered, voicing her fears for the first time.

"Forget you? How could I do that, Jane McCloud?"

"You're going to meet many beautiful, intelligent college girls, and …"

"But none as special as you are to me. You're the only one, Jane," Billy cut her off, declaring his undying love as he caressed her face. "It's me who should be afraid of those real boys going after you."

"What boys?" Jane laughed amused.

"All of them. Joe Miller, Barry Owens, Terry Cole…" Jane continued laughing, and Billy kept quiet, totally mesmerized by her breathtaking, adorable image. "You're so beautiful," he breathed. Jane blushed pleased, and before she could say another word, she was flooded by his intense, demanding kisses once again. Music from outside reached them, involving the cavernous, cold barn in a romantic, invisible halo.

Feeling captive and weak under his kisses, almost by inertia Jane found herself lowering her body until her back touched the straw covering the hayloft. Billy inched on top of her, his legs framing hers, and after minutes of passionate kissing his lips traced the skin of her neck. Feeling his mouth on her, Jane let out a moan, a sound she did not even know was able to utter, and the same sound pushed Billy to act more boldly. His hand moved almost automatically, and sneaked under her skirt, touching the pale skin on her leg that had never seen the sunlight before.

At his feel Jane opened her eyes, totally started. "Billy!" she exclaimed, roughly removing his hand, and giving him a light punch on his chest.

The boy stopped nuzzling her neck, and his eyes locked into hers. "What's the problem, baby?"

"That… that's not decent!" she said, pulling the material of her skirt down, and sitting up at the same time.

"I love you, Janey."

"And I love you too," the girl replied. "But that doesn't mean we have to forget we're decent folks."

"Baby, remember what I told you? When people are in love, like your parents or mine, they long for more than just kisses… I long for more."

"But… but our parents are married," Jane replied.

"They are now, but you know my folks just tied the knot last year. Do you think what they did before then was wrong?"

"Uh no, but…"

"And one day we'll get married too." Jane still looked unconvinced, and Billy smiled. "Don't frown, Janey. We don't have to do anything you don't want to." The boy rose to his feet, and stretched his hand to her. "Come on. Let's go, my little prude."

Jane swatted her hand away, and felt very irritated. "I'm not a prude! I just think we're too young."

"I understand."

His patronizing tone managed to annoy her even more. "I'm serious, Billy! Don't treat me like an idiot!"

The boy fell onto his knees before her, and cupped her face in his hands. "I love you, Janey… more than I can even express. I know I'm going to miss you too much when I go, and I guess my longing for you took over now." Billy brought her mouth to his, and the boy put his whole soul, spirit, and body in the kiss, worshipping and exploring every inch of her enticing lips. When he pulled away, Jane gasped, already missing his touch. She smiled, and as her whole body was overwhelmed by a desperate longing and desire, she realized that in one second she had made a decision. "Billy, will… will… will you be gentle?"

The boy stared at her wide-eyed. "Janey, we don't have to do anything just because 'I' want it."

"I also want it," Jane stated firmly, feeling a surge of excitement at the prospect of crossing those forbidden barriers that only adults were supposed to overlook. "And I really wish to show you how sure I am of my love to you."

Billy smiled, and taking her hand in his, he gently lay her down on the straw. The boy leaned on his side next to her, and looking into her apprehensive eyes, he whispered, "Don't be scared. This is something we will always remember."

"How are you feeling?" Billy asked, softly kissing the tender skin of her naked shoulder.

Jane folded her arms to cover her breasts as her eyes directed to the peaked wooden ceiling above her. Despite being intimate with Billy just moments ago, she now felt very embarrassed, and realizing that she was in the nude before her, she could hardly meet his eyes. "I… I dunno. Strange, I guess."

"Did… did I hurt you?"

Jane shook her head. "Not really. It was… it was nice at times."

"I heard it bets better after the first time."

Jane turned her head to face his gaze. "Billy, we can't… we can't do this anymore. What if I get in trouble?"

Billy slid his arm around her shoulders and drew her closer to him. "Everybody knows nothing of that sort can happen the first time, silly, and there are ways to play on the safe side."

Jane's interest perked up after his words. "What ways?"

Billy did not answer right away because in fact he did not know much about the whole thing. He had just heard some of his older friends talk and brag about being with prostitutes, and logically he had been interested in knowing more. The boy was as inexperienced as Janey, but he was positive that all he had to do was to follow what he had learned from his friends. "Uh… there are certain positions. If we remain in our feet, and you place…"

"Billy, please stop! That sounds too… too dirty."

"Janey, there's nothing dirty in this if you are with the person you're in love with. I'd like to share this with you again before I go on Monday."

"We'll see," Jane replied as she sat up and tried to find her clothes. "Let's go now before somebody misses us and comes looking for us."

They got dressed in silence. When they came down the ladder, Jane panicked as she saw her brother Mattie in the barn. The boy was crouched behind the door, clearly playing hide-and-seek with his friends. Hearing noises behind him, Matt turned his head and saw her sister and Billy climbing down from the hayloft.

"What were you doing up there? You know Ma doesn't like you to be there with him."

Janey stalked to her brother in three strides, and grabbed the nine-year-old by the collar of his shirt. "If you breathe any of this to ma or pa, I'll tell them who broke the jewelry box Pa gave Ma for her birthday."

"They already know it was Jed."

"It was you, Matt. I'll tell them and they won't be so lenient with you," Jane snarled angrily.

The young boy shoved himself free, and cried, "I don't care! Tell them!"

Without waiting for an answer, Matt ran out of the barn like a bat out for leather. Jane remained there, petrified, and as she felt Billy behind her, she said, "Oh God! Why did Matt have to see us? He can't keep quiet, he can't!"

"Don't worry, honey. It wont' be the first time your ma has told you off for hiding here with me. You'll just have to endure another lecture, that's all."

"But if she asks me, I'll be too embarrassed. And she'll know… she'll know. I sometimes think she can read my mind," Jane said.

"Jane, relax. This ain't the end of the world," Billy replied, and as Jane still looked quite strung up, he added, "Come on. Let's go dancing. This is a party."

Jane nodded, and let him steer her outside. As they joined the dancing couples once again, Jane kept her eyes down, feeling that all eyes were on her as if everybody knew what had happened in the barn. The confrontation with her brother kept tormenting her, and she timidly lifted her gaze, and scanned the yard, trying to locate Matt. She found him with a bunch of boys, having some kind of argument. Jane silently prayed Matt forgot he had seen her in the barn because if her blabbermouth brother told her mother, she would be up for some serious trouble.