The Kiss that Saved Her (Chapter 3, page 1 of 1)


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Chapter 3

The hottest day of the year arrived and Joanna finished her work early to avoid
the heat. Louis took to the cool interior of the cave. Joanna folded the last of the
clothes after she pulled them down from the rope she hung them on. Shirts and
pants along the rope looked like paper doll clothes in real size. She bent down to
put laundry in the basket. The wind swept behind her and around her before she
felt hands covering her eyes.
“Who is it?” Joanna asked. She suspected it was David. “I guess it is David, am
I right?” He removed his hands from her eyes and she turned to see him grinning.
Sunlight broke the clouds’ grip and rays proudly descended to the earth, winning
the game.
She continued, “You are home early.” Her voice rose with a happy pitch as she
longed for his company.
She observed he wore a shirt without sleeves and pants cut off above the knee,
but in the heat she envied him.
“It’s too hot to work today. Why are you working?” David said.
“Somebody has to make sure that you wear clean clothes.”
“Joanna, stop working in this heat. You must take care of yourself, as Dom
would tell you!” He touched her hand as she pulled another shirt down from the
rope which caused her to stop working.
“Well Sir, what should I do?”
“Sir? I like the sound of that! I propose you join me for a swim.” He squinted to
see since the sun’s light was bright.
“I couldn’t.” Her voice stammered, not expecting his words.
David furrowed his brow. “Why not?”
“But where would we go? What do I wear?”
He handed her a pair of cut-off pants and sleeveless shirt.
“I’m already dressed for swimming, hurry up and change.”
Joanna’s eyes narrowed. “You planned this!”
David smiled. Joanna felt a bit strange going off with David but it was so hot
outside. She ran back into the cave and changed behind a curtain that Dom had
hung up. She changed quietly since Louis was taking his afternoon nap.
She raced back outside and David gave her a strange look. She thought he was
looking at her too long and she found that she liked his stare.
“Let’s go!”
She followed him down the path to the stream but he went past it. They traveled
through the woods and continued until she saw a watering hole in the middle of the
forest.
“We dammed it up like the beavers,” David told her.
“What is this place?”
“We use it for our wheat mostly, to water the plants. Dom dug a trench that
reaches our wheat fields. We stop the water with a wooden block but during the
hot months we open it up. I watered the fields all morning. Dom was here earlier
but needed to work in town. The heat got unbearable by noon. I thought today
would be a good day for a swim. I figured you were hot too and I came back to get
you.”
She surveyed the pond. Dom had taken a knife and cut a path up to the water’s
edge around half of it and the short grass was soft against her feet. The grass across
from her contained a wild, uneven nature and the animals of the forest were able to
hide in plain sight. The water was a green tint and fish and frogs played their
games. She sighed at the grandeur of the spot.
“Thank you so much, I love to swim and it’s been ages!” She paused. “May I
ask you something?”
David turned serious. “Anything you want.”
“Whose shirt is this anyway?” she asked as she tied a knot in the shirt to tighten
it.
“Mine, but it looks a lot better on you than on me,” he teased her back.
David stripped off his shirt. Then he jumped into the pond.
Joanna couldn’t take her eyes off David. She felt an intense attraction. She was
raised to keep her emotions in check and her cheeks burned with embarrassment.
“Are you going to swim or not?” he called to her.
“I am!”
David swam halfway across the pond; she waded carefully into the water. The
water felt cold and the air smelled of pond grasses.
She finally dunked her head into the water. She swam under it to cool off.
Joanna paddled which separated the peaceful green water. She reappeared to find
David standing nearby, laughing at her.
“I’ve never seen someone take so long to cool off!” he said.
“How did you do that?”
“What do you mean?”
“There is no way you swam that fast. You were way over there.” She pointed to
the other end of the pond.
“Oh, I can explain.” He wiped the water out of his eyes. “Better yet, I will show
you!”
“Show me?”
David swam across the pond. She had no choice but to swim after him. He swam
to the other side and sat on the bank of the pond waiting for her to catch up. The
grassy hill smelled like summer itself, fresh and crisp like an apple but not fruity,
more like the herbs Dom stored in the cave.
She stopped swimming when she could reach bottom, at the other end. She
slicked back her dark hair. Beads of water covered her face. The water tugged at
her when she walked.
David watched her as she waded toward him and thought to himself that she
must be a dream as she was too beautiful. He hardly believed no one had married
her yet. He was aware his feelings for her were deepening. It wasn’t as if he had
never sought out the attention of a girl. He talked to plenty of girls in the town of
Randele. David understood girls liked him and he tried to treat them with respect.
Joanna commanded his respect more than the others.
Joanna reached the edge of the pond. David stood up and reached out his hand to
her. She took it and he lifted her out of the water. She sat down on the ground to
catch her breath.
“Now what was it that you wanted to show me?” she said.
He climbed the slight hill. She watched him with curiosity. He jumped up and
pulled down a vine that had grown above the trees. He took hold of the vine, pulled
it taut, and took off and ran towards the pond. When he dangled over the open
water, he let go of the vine and plopped into the pond with a huge splash.
Soon he reappeared on the water’s surface. Joanna stood up and applauded him
loudly.
“Now you!” he yelled.
“No! I can’t do THAT!” she protested. He swam back to the bank of the pond
and then he lifted himself over the bank and stood next to her again.
“Sure you can, it’s easy, just take the vine and swing. Once you are over the
water, then you let go. It’s simple.” His body dripped water all over the ground as
he stood next to her.
“No, I am afraid!”
He saw that she really was afraid as she recoiled from the vine.
“Joanna, there is nothing to this.” He took the vine and handed it to her.
“What if I can’t do this?” She placed her hands on her hips.
“You can do this. You ride horses, how is this harder?”
“That’s different.” She saw that he didn’t believe her. “I rode from the time I
was a little girl, but this, this is something that I have never done before.”
“There has to be a first time for everything.” He pushed back his drenched hair.
“Would we find out if we are good at anything unless we try? If you try it just
once, then you will know. If you hate it, then you never have to do it again, but if
you love it, you will be glad that you did.”
“Okay, I will give it a try.” She took the vine and her fingers wrapped around it.
David's presence gave her courage.
She took a little running start but when she swung out over the water she forgot
to let go, and she swung back to the bank. David caught her and pulled her clear of
the pond. She grew upset that she failed.
“That’s fine; a lot of people forget to let go the first time. Try it again, this time
you will remember to let go.”
She couldn’t let him down so she nodded slightly. He backed away and she gave
it a running start and dangled over the pond as she swung. In an instant she let go.
She hit the water and made a splash as she slipped underneath the water. She shot
back up to the surface. David waited for her response.
“Let’s do that again!”
David swung on the vine and jumped into the pond. He resurfaced next to her.
She swam back to the bank and scurried up to the vine. She grabbed it and jumped
into the pond.
“I told you it was fun!”
The two swam for the rest of the afternoon. Joanna began to feel too cold so
David suggested that they might sit in the sun near the wheat field. They got out of
the water, and David took his dry shirt and gave it to Joanna to put on over her wet
clothes. They strolled to the clearing.
“Are you sure you have never spent an entire afternoon swimming, Joanna?” he
asked.
“Yes, why do you ask?”
“I don’t know if I believe you.” His grin said otherwise.
“Stop your teasing!” she said. David’s roaring laugh filled the forest for a
moment and then it was no more.
They found a soft patch of grass. David had lain down as she sat down on the
warm grass. David turned sideways, his head propped up with his elbow. She
glanced at him.
Her hands reached for her knees and she pulled them up towards her stomach.
David sat up. She noticed his stare and her heart beat faster.
“Joanna, may I ask you a question?”
“Of course.” She lifted up her hand over her eyes to see him.
“I was just wondering if you spent time with any special boy before you came
here.”
The question surprised her. Perhaps he wanted her to know that he felt
something for her. Did he know how she felt about him? They spent every day
together for months and she realized she might be feeling something different than
she had ever felt before.
“No David. There was no one special to me,” she responded. “What about you?”
“Me?” David turned his head and looked at her, and she nodded.
The trees swayed as the wind blew and their shadows fell over David and
Joanna.
“No, I mean no one special.” He glanced at her. “I asked because many girls
marry around your age.”
“I guess you are right, most girls my age marry. I never thought about it to be
honest.”
“Me either,” David interjected.
Joanna wondered if his interjection was a good answer or a bad one and she
looked at the grass on the ground.
She wondered why David asked and she grew happy at the thought that he might
feel something for her. She had never imagined how love would be until she met
David. Joanna’s upbringing never addressed love. Since Joanna was little, she
comprehended her marriage must benefit the kingdom first without any regard to
her feelings. Marriage for a princess was a necessity. Joanna would marry a prince;
and then a thought crept across her mind — she was no longer a princess.
“I mean I am not opposed to marriage, I hope to marry someday.” She glanced
back up at him.
“I would like to marry someday.” He looked at her intently. She wondered if he
might mean to kiss her.
“Good,” she said.
He leaned towards her so close he could have pulled her into his arms and
covered her. Her eyes searched for his intentions if his face would reveal it, but he
turned away. The moment of discovery ended as the sun sank lower in the sky and
time’s passing called them home.
The others were already home when they arrived. They passed Frank and
George washing up in the stream. They looked up at Joanna but they remained
silent at David’s cheerful greeting. Joanna wondered why they were frowning at
her. The stares made her realize that she had been alone with David all afternoon
which was not considered proper. She wished that she would have invited Louis!
When they got close to the cave, she ran inside quickly to change. David took a
shirt off the rope where laundry dried and put it on.
“Will no one talk to me?” David asked as he washed his hands in the stream.
“I better go help Louis,” Frank said, as he rolled down his sleeves.
George finished washing his face. He rubbed it dry with a cloth and when he
was finished, he went back to the cave without saying a word to David. Dom
remained outside with David who seemed puzzled.
“David, let's take a walk.” Dom pulled his hands behind his back as he strolled
through the forest.
David followed him. Dom never yelled at him, but a walk to chat was about the
same thing.
They walked to where Dom mixed his medicines at a covered wooden bench
supplied with buckets, bowls, and knives. David picked up a knife to study it then
put it back down.
“Have a seat,” Dom instructed him. He sat on a stool, next to the table. Dom
almost paced.
“Am I in some sort of trouble?”
“David, this is a difficult conversation for me to have with you. I try to treat you
like my own son, and I love you.” Dom scratched his head for a moment as if he
was thinking of what to say. “You are extremely intelligent and you have a good
heart. You show such good judgment about most everything that I rarely correct
you, but I think we are in new territory now. I believe you may need my guidance.”
“Dom, that is a good speech, but I have no idea what you are talking about.”
Dom looked at David, fully grown-up, and he tried again.
“Let me put it another way. How long have you known Joanna?”
“Three months.”
“Three months, three short months! What do you really know about her, I mean
about her background, where she comes from, who are her parents, and that sort of
information?” His palms turned towards him to emphasize his point.
“You are right, Dom, I see your point. I know very little about her background.
But what I do know is she is a hard worker, she is very kind, especially to Louis,
and she has a good mind. I think that is a lot really.” David shifted his weight as he
sat on the uncomfortable stool.
“Okay David, I will give you that, you do know her rather well despite the short
duration of your acquaintance. I worry you are too familiar with her. I understand
that she lives here and up until today I trusted you. Because of the way you both
acted this afternoon, you betrayed that trust.”
David finally understood why he was upset. “Dom, we went swimming. You
know me. I would never do anything improper.”
“Louis was worried, when he woke up there was no Joanna. He was frantic until
I arrived home and calmed him down. It was inconsiderate to leave without telling
him! Joanna has an unknown past. Who knows what happened to her?” He
continued, “Louis worried that someone came and took her away.”
“I am sorry about Louis.” David seemed contrite, then said, “I thought it would
be nice for her to have a break from the heat and her chores; she works all the time.
I thought it was a good idea.” His hands rested on the table.
“Perhaps it seems I am making too much of this but it is disrespectful to her to
go swimming without a chaperone.”
“I never thought of it that way before.” David tilted his head.
“Do you see my point?”
David nodded.
“Will it happen again?”
“No Dom, it won’t. I never want to do anything that could hurt Joanna in any
possible way. She is the one person that I never want to disappoint.”
“I know that David. I am not blind. I know that she is special to you. I think that
she feels something for you as well.”
“You do?” David said.
“Now you should get dressed for dinner. Off you go.” David got up and acted as
if he would say something, but nothing came out of his mouth.
Dom watched David walk to the cave. He wondered if David had any idea about
who Joanna really was, and if her family would one day seek her out.
Dom considered inquiring about her, but thought better of it as her fear was
evident any time he asked about her family. He had thought she would one day
leave as suddenly as she appeared, but it was apparent she was there for a long
duration. Dom sat down on a stool and thought.
*
Joanna wore a long dress to dinner. Frank and George cut up lettuce to eat along
with the bread.
“Joanna, this bread is so delicious!” Louis popped a piece of bread into his
mouth.
“Hey, stop eating it all before the rest of us have a chance!” complained George.
Joanna laughed. She had finally learned to bake and was proud of her
accomplishment.
Louis said, “I remember when I thought I’d never eat again. A miner had to haul
a certain amount to earn dinner. When I was younger, I was strong and ate well,
but after my injury I would have starved to death. The pain in my leg made hauling
silver unbearable.”
“Oh, Louis,” Joanna said.
“It was a terrible time and I was lucky that I came to my senses and sought out
Dom. I lived in a room provided by the mines and feared being turned out. I waited
so long to get help for my leg that I had a limp when I walked. When Dom saw the
leg he told me I would never mine again and I was frightened. I had no family. He
sensed my worry and invited me to live here just like that.” Louis snapped his
fingers.
“We wouldn’t let you starve,” George said.
“We shouldn’t talk about starving! We better get the others so we can eat!”
Frank stated.
“Why don’t you go and find Dom and David?” Louis said.
“I suppose I should go and find them. Excuse me.” Frank said.
Frank shuffled his feet and his jaw shifted. It was unlike him to be sullen. He left
the three of them as the door slammed to match his mood.
“How did Frank end up here?” Joanna asked the others.
George said, “Frank had a hard life. A fire destroyed his log home and killed his
folks when he was just twenty. He had nowhere to turn. I convinced him to live
here as I was his only living family.”
“I never realized what Frank has been through.” She paused. “How did you meet
Dom?” she asked George.
“Dom helped me during the worst year of my life after I started a trading post. I
owed more money than I made in a year. My family disowned me, I think because
they had no way to repay my loans. With nowhere to turn, I slept in front of the
church. One day, Dom saw the constable harass me, the dirty, rotten man!” George
rubbed his chin at the memory. “We were strangers but Dom pitied me. Dom
feared I would freeze to death and he offered to let me stay in this cave.”
“I am thankful you found help,” Joanna replied.
“Me too,” Louis said.
George said, “I tried to repay him after I took a job at the mines, but he refused
payment of any kind. A stranger treated me better than my family! I eventually
paid my debts, but it took over ten years.”
“I understand cruel families,” Joanna said.
Frank, Dom, and David burst into the kitchen. David’s bubbly laughter made the
cave pleasant and drowned out the sad memories.

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