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A Sweet Kiss

I cut my teeth writing on Hubpages back in 2009. I've written 17 novels, numerous songs, and short stories since. I love to write love.

Wondering

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Hurt

The evening sun's rays made a halo in her hair as Imogene Conners sat on the porch and wondered out loud, "What is love? Momma says it's tender tears and tenacity." She watched the beams of light fade away like a reflection in the window when a lamp is turned down. The taste of a lemon drop was still in her mouth as she thought of the young storekeeper, Vernon Cunningham, who slipped a few pieces of free candy in her grocery order. He was a handsome fellow in his white shirt, black suspenders, and brown stripe pants. His big brown eyes and sweet smile captured Imogene's fancy since she was 14 years old. From the time she first laid eyes on him, she wanted to shout, "Choose me to love!"

Early the next spring when she was 15 years old, she was playing Tag, chasing a friend across the creek. She fell on a rock and knocked one of her canine teeth out. She was devastated. She ran home crying and cried even harder when she looked in the mirror. Her parents and siblings tried to comfort her to no avail. There was no way her parents could afford to have her tooth replaced with a partial denture. Imogene learned to talk and smile without showing her teeth. She mostly spoke with her head down after the accident. She rarely went to the store and Vernon noticed she acted differently.

The next year in the spring of 1910, Imogene went to the store to buy flour and lard for her mother. She stood nervously at the counter as Vernon took the items down from the shelves. He sat them on the counter and hesitantly asked Imogene, "Why do you hold your head down when you talk to me? I'm not a King." Imogene had pretty much given up on getting married someday because she harshly judged herself as a toothless hag. She was very conscientious about her missing tooth. She shyly answered, "I just, just do." Vernon smiled and said, "Your brother told me about what happened at the creek a time ago. He told me you lost a tooth. Is that why you talk with your head down?"

Anger grew on Imogene's freckled face and her red hair seemed to get even redder as she grumbled, "Yes I lost a tooth and my brother, Tommy is in for a whooping!" She leaned over the counter, opened her mouth wide, and cried softly with a hurt tone, "Here.....See." She closed her mouth quickly.

The General Store

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Confusing Tears

Vernon Cunningham bent forward and kissed her. Imogene leaned back and as tears formed in her eyes, she asked, "Why, why did you do that?" Vernon gently placed his hands on top of hers and said, "Because you are the most beautiful girl in the world to me. I would love to court you." Imogene melted as he repeated his wonderful words." She looked down at his hands on hers. She smiled and said softly, "I don't know what to say." Vernon lifted her chin with his right hand and said, "I see pretty girls come in here all the time. The only time I feel the warmth of joy in my heart is when you walk in." He kissed her again.

Imogene smiled wide and kissed him back. She grabbed the sack of flour and the can of lard while giggling and said, "I have to go." Vernon stepped around the counter and opened the door for her. One more kiss before she stepped off the porch. She walked and twirled for a few yards away, stopped, and shouted, "I love you, Vernon Cunningham!" Vernon smiled wide and shouted, "I love you, Imogene Conners!"

Imogene turned 16 on September 30th, 1910. They had been courting a few months and were married in July of 1911. Vernon and his brothers had built a cabin deep in the woods of southern Ohio, not far from the Ohio River. Vernon took out a loan and purchased a sawmill in Russ Hollow not far from Sciotoville. He and his brothers supplied lumber for the Portsmouth area which was about 7 miles downriver. Midsummer of 1912, Imogene and Vernon welcomed their firstborn, June Sunshine Cunningham. They were as happily married as happily can be.

It was near the end of March 1913 when Vernon came home from delivering a load of wood. He opened the cabin door to Imogene saying, "This is such a terrible rain. It was gushing from the roof a while ago." Vernon took off his hat and raincoat and shook the water from them just outside the door while saying, "The river is getting way out of its banks. We may have to go to higher ground." Imogene said, "Oh I hope not," as she stirred a pot of stew on the stove.

They had just finished supper when they heard Vernon's younger brother, Franklin shouting outside from faint to loud until he burst in the door and nearly out of breath, pleaded "Gather what you can. The water is a foot in my place and rising fast. Franklin lived just down the hollow from him. Franklin was soaked head to toe and shivering. Imogene rushed to get him a wool blanket as Vernon stepped out on the porch and saw floating muddy brush oozing up the hillside.

They hurried and gathered what they could to take with them as Franklin hitched the horses to the lumber wagon. The rain began to fall harder as baby June cried, cradled in Imogene's arms. Imogene sat in the middle of the buckboard with Franklin to her right and Vernon to her left both holding up a canvas as Vernon headed the team for a logging path not far away. They made it to a small logging shack on top of the hill. The shack had a fireplace that allowed them to keep warm and cook smoked hams, flour, and canned goods they'd brought with them. Franklin found a spring down the hill when the waters began to recede.

The days seemed like years and it was finally time to go see their home. As they crossed into the line of mud on the hill, Vernon patted Imogene on the leg and asked, "You going to be OK? This might be pretty bad." Imogene smiled with tears in her eyes and said, "If you can love a girl with a tooth missing, I can love a boy with a cabin missing." Vernon laughed and shouted, "Oh how I love you, Imogene Cunningham!" Imogene laid her head on his shoulder as Franklin chuckled and said, "You two are something else."

Still Kissing

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Love

As they approached their cabin, they could see it was still standing but mud stains were up to the window sills. They opened the door to sloppy silt covering the floors. The tongue and groove board walls of the kitchen were the hardest to clean. Muddy water kept coming from the joints as they wiped them down. Franklin and Vernon took turns pumping the well for three days until clear water came out of the spicket. They considered themselves lucky because many folks had lost everything and some, their lives. It took weeks to clean up their cabin and then Franklin's cabin. Vernon, Franklin, and their older brother Tobias cleaned up the sawmill and were in business again.

The middle of May brought some sunny days to Russ Hollow. The Cunninghams had just finished breakfast, Vernon left for work and Imogene went to sit on the edge of the porch. Baby June was in her cradle playing with a pink and white yarn doll. The warm sun rays shined on Imogene's face as she closed her eyes, thought of the time she sat on her parent's porch, and thought out loud, "What is love? Momma says love is tender tears and tenacity." She smiled and answered her question with a whisper, "Well...I found love with my sweet Vernon Cunningham. Momma was right. I think love is also an unexpected sweet kiss, especially for a girl who is missing a tooth."

Sunshine Again

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© 2022 Tom Cornett

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