A scrawny ten year old trudged across an open farmyard dragging a bucket behind her. She was dressed in a loose flowery oversized gown that fell almost to her ankles. A brown untidy hat hid a mass of rich brown hair with tendrils escaping to frame an angelic face that needed a good scrubbing. Hiking up her dress to reveal worn out boots which had obviously seen better days, she climbed a well and stood astride it to draw water. Her father couldn't afford a pulley amongst other things.
She repeated the exercise until she filled up the animals drinking trough, then she let the animals out before picking up a broom to sweep. She clapped her hands when she was done and dusted her dress as she examined her work. Satisfied with her efforts, she sauntered back into the kitchen to eat some of the porridge she had prepared in her mothers absence.
She was sitting at the table in the kitchen when the kitchen door flew wide open.
"elo gal!" A tall lean man, handsome with a well sculpted face and an arrogant jaw, in his thirties with curly brown hair and skin almost brown from the sun filled the doorway.
"Papa! Lesley practically flew into his strong arms. She hadn't seen him in days. Burying her face in his shirt, she breathed in his scent and her eyes watered with gratitude for having him home in one piece. Taylor McBride may not have had much money, but he was one hell of a bull when it came to caring for his family. In addition to the farm, he regularly joined other farmers to hunt and it took him away from home for days.
"Mm. . . What's that aroma?" He tickled Lesley as he put her down.
She giggled and went on to dish him a generous helping of the porridge she had prepared. "I made it myself from scratch."
He shoved a spoonful into his mouth and chewed appreciatively, "Yum. . It tastes just like your mother's." Taylor gave her a high five and looked around. "Where is she anyway . . . and the boys?"
"She went down to the market to get some vegetables for supper.
"It's just as well. Pa Anthony and I caught a wild boar twice your size. We might as well have some vegetables with the meat. "
Lesley gave a wild yelp and did a little food dance while her father laughed.
Sound of running feet announced the arrival of her mother and brothers from the market. Lesley rushed outside to help her mother with her bags. She stopped short when she saw her mothers hand and frowned. Her mother carried a single paper bag. Tears welled up in little Lesley's eyes and she dashed across the homestead to Jake's farm.
Jake was feeding his father's pigs when she flew across the fence and fell at his feet weeping. Startled, Jake dropped his bucket of feed and some flew all over Lesley's head and dress which only made her howl louder. Jake crouched beside her and began dusting the feed off her. "Why are you crying Les?
Lesley raised her tear streaked face to look up at him. "Mama broke her promise.
"Oh Les. He said and held her as she wailed.
At fourteen, Jake had the insight of a forty year old. Having lost his father at nine, Jake took over the household and made all the major decisions as his mothers partner in running the farm and household. His father had left a small fortune behind but it was Jake's prudence and incredible skills that kept his family financially afloat. He borrowed books and home schooled so that his three younger sisters could attend the local primary school.
Being a first child herself, Lesley had always seen him as a pillar of strength though only four years older than she was.
Finally able to calm down, Lesley spoke amidst sniffs. "She promised . . . to . . . to . . . buy me a dress for the school dance . . . she didnt! I have nothing to wear!" She erupted in a fresh bout of wails.
Jake fought hard to suppress a smile while he consoled her. Trying to reason with Lesley right now would be a waste of time. She was a good girl but sometimes she tended to lose sight of the more important things. Jake also knew how important the dance was to her. He cleared his throat and lifted her face to look at her as he wiped her tears with his sleeve. Why don't I ask mama to sew a dress for you? I'll scout for a nice fabric and she can sew it for you. What do you say? "
The tears of pure joy and adoration that poured from Lesley's eyes as she looked at him were all the answer he needed.
* * *
"Why did you run off when you saw me, Les? Her mother's eyes were on her. Vanessa McBride was a strong formidable woman. Being a co-runner of the farm and handling twin boys made her tough as nails. But she wasn't the only strong willed woman in the house. Lesley took after her mother in so many ways -Willpower was one of them. So while other lesser people might have cowered under that searing gaze, Lesley lifted her chin defiantly to look at her mother.
"You didn't keep your word, she grumbled, “You promised you'd buy me a dress for our school dance. "
Vanessa sighed deeply. She loved her daughter. Lesley reminded her too much of herself when she was her age. She had thought she would marry a president and have the world at her feet. Many times she had lost sight of what was truly important. And she didn't want her daughter to make the series of mistakes she made before realizing the cold truth. "Lesley. She said in a low voice, trying to reason with her only daughter, “Would you rather have me buy your dress and starve our family?"
"But you promised!
"Yes I did. But the recession has taken its toll on the market. I could barely buy enough food to last us a week. You can't go for the dance if you starve to death. "
Lesley sulked. "I can't go anyway.
Vanessa touched her daughter's hand. "There'll be other dances.
Lesley pouted and got up to put away the dishes. Her parents exchanged pained glances.
Lesley dropped the broom she was sweeping with and ran out to see Jake with his hands behind his back. She felt laughter bubble out from deep inside her and clapped her hands in sheer delight.
Jake stared. Her hair was unrestrained by a hat and it hung down straight to her waist. As she ran to him in her ragged hand-me-downs, Jake thought he had never seen anyone so beautiful.
"I have something for you. He said. “Close your eyes."
Lesley closed her eyes and shifted her weight from one foot to the other restlessly as she wriggled her hands. She felt something being pushed on her head. Then something touched her face.
"Open." was Jakes single command.
Lesley opened her eyes and her breath caught. A cream homemade organza ball gown with a lace bodice danced in front of her.
Jake poked his head around the dress and grinned at her. "Do you like it? I picked the design. "
Lesley's eyes welled up with tears of joy and a sob escaped her throat.
Jake was instantly concerned. "I'm sorry. I should have asked you what design you wanted. "
Lesley dragged a sleeved arm across her face and sniffed. She leaned in and kissed him square on the lips. "I love it. Then she touched her head and felt flowers. She arched a brow at Jake who shifted uncomfortably.
He stuttered when he spoke, "I. . . I told Abigail about your dance and she wove a crown of flowers for you. She said it would go with the dress. "
Lesley snatched the dress from his hands and ran all the way to her room to try it on. When she came back out five minutes later, Jake was sitting on the front step. He blinked when he saw her.
"I thought you were going to try it on."
"I have. And I've kept it in a really safe place."
Jake lowered his head in disappointment and kicked against the ground. "Oh." was all he said.
Lesley walked up to him and hooked a finger under his chin. "You'll see me in it on Saturday when you come to escort me to the dance."
Jake looked lost.
"I don't have a partner for the dance. I'm hoping you could take me." Lesley realized what she was doing and turned a dark shade of pink.
Seeing Lesley blush was a rare sight and Jake took a moment to enjoy the moment before coming to her aid. "I'd love to take you to the dance, Les."
Lesley scratched her hair nervously and disappeared into the house.
His sisters were waiting for him when he got home. Jake groaned as he was subjected to a thorough inquisition by the girls.
"No Abigail, Lesley is like a sister to me. No I'm too busy to date." Still, as Jake went about his activities, he found himself willing Saturday to come faster.
Lesley all but worshipped her dress. She dusted it where it hung, checked for stains and kissed it goodnight for two days.
* * *
She was up early on Saturday morning. She ran through her chores and then spent a good amount of time having a bath. Her mother fixed her hair and her brothers polished her old shoes. When Lesley stood at a narrow standing mirror in her mother's room, she looked nothing like the poor farm girl she was.
She heard a sniff behind her and turned to see her father looking at her with a look of both pride and regret in his eyes.
He cleared his throat and walked up to her. "I got you something, princess. He opened his palm to reveal a gold necklace. Lesley gasped. "It belonged to my mother. He said. Your mother and I decided you should have it. You've been a good girl and there's not much we've done for you to show how much we appreciate all your hard work on the farm and in the house". He went down on one knee and hooked the necklace around her neck.
Lesley threw her arms around him and hugged him close.
Jake's breath caught when he saw her.
The bodice of her dress fit her perfectly as the skirt flared at her waist. Her hair was up in a doughnut and the crown of flowers was on her head. A gold chain hung around her slim neck. She wore no makeup but her face was flushed with happiness and her rosebud lips glistened from the petroleum jelly she had applied. Jake almost felt intimidated in his worn out but clean jacket. He looked down at his shoes -they had holes in them- he silently wished he were better dressed to compliment the dazzling beauty he would be escorting to a dance. He rocked back on his heels and drank in the sight of Lesley. She beamed at him and held her dress gingerly as if it were fragile or it would vanish if she gripped it too tightly. He knew he had put that smile there. He had made her happy. He knew women were like flowers -they blossomed when nurtured. And currently he had five women for whom he would give anything just to see them smile. He vowed silently to make as much money as he could to give them exactly the kind of life they deserved. . All in time, he thought, all in time.
- All in time: Chapters 3&4
The beginning of the intense love story between Jake and Leslie