Tuesday Teaser1/19/16: Olivia’s Mate
We’re getting down to the last couple of chapters in Olivia’s Mate! The writing is going a bit slowly, as I’m working overtime at the day job and busy with other things 3 nights a week. At least I can say that on every night I’ve had available I have done at least some writing. Slow and steady wins the race, right?
This latest bit is a lot of dialogue. When I revise, I may do some re-writing here. But I like the time with Tracker and Tami. What do you think?
Supper was oddly tense. Well, maybe it wasn’t so odd, Olivia admitted privately. Renee’s chili and cornbread were warm and tasty, and the dozen or so people crowded around the table were laughing and talking over each other as usual. Everyone wanted to hear how her parents and brothers had been and how the ranch was. Conversation covered Christmas, and the weather, and the health and doings of every member of the Clan and Packs. The one subject no one brought up was Kit, but he there, like a buffalo that everyone politely pretended wasn’t in the room. As she ate, Olivia tried to think of the best approach to the impending conversation.
Nothing seemed right. Supper was quickly over, and when her brothers moved toward her, her parents waved them off. Olivia led her parents up to Des and Connie’s apartment and sat down in the one armchair. Her parents took the couch. Olivia swallowed and waited for her parents to say something. At least Parker and Taylor hadn’t been allowed to join in this meeting.
For several minutes her parents simply looked at her. Finally, her mom said, “You look good, Olivia. Happy.”
Geez, Mom didn’t have to sound so surprised. “I am happy,” Olivia replied quickly. Her breath stalled for a moment as that sank in. “I really am.”
Her parents exchanged a quick glance. Her father leaned forward, his elbows on his thighs and his eyes fixed on his callused hands dangling between his knees. Slowly, he looked up at her. “Livvy, we’re worried about you. You haven’t written for nearly a month.”
She shifted in the chair, staring at her fingers to avoid her parents’ eyes. “I know. I meant to. I’m really sorry.”
“Let’s not beat around the bush.” Her mom sat ramrod straight, back not touching the couch. “You have been seeing that cat.”
She said ‘that cat’ like it was a swear word. Olivia had to swallow twice before managing to speak. “Kit. Yeah.”
Dead silence. Her parents didn’t even glance at each other. They probably didn’t need to. After all those years of being married, they could probably read each other’s minds. Olivia looked between them, trying to decide which would be more open to what she wanted to say. She’d thought her mom would be, but maybe not.
“Olivia,” her mom said quietly. Olivia wasn’t fooled by the quiet. Her mom was angry. “You’ve written every week since you came to Kearney. In those letters you’ve told us about a dozen different boys who wanted to court you. But you didn’t say one word about this one. Why?”
Olivia floundered. “Well, because … Because…”
“Because,” her mother finished in that same quiet voice, “you knew how your father and I would feel about it.”
Olivia stopped squirming. “That was part of it,” she admitted.
She looked from her mother’s face to her father’s. It wasn’t always easy to know what he was thinking, but it seemed that his cool eyes held hurt. “When Kit first came to Kearney I was surprised. I didn’t know what to think.” Her mind went back to those minutes in the Martins’ store. Shock had numbed her for a moment, but a spike of something had jabbed a hole in the shock. Excitement? Happiness? Curiosity? It might have been a mixture of all three or something else, but it hadn’t been fear. “At first I didn’t write because I wasn’t sure what to say. I was going wait until I knew what my feelings were. I didn’t want to alarm you.”
Her dad looked at her. “Do you know what your feelings are now?”
“Yes.” Olivia sat straight, making herself look each of her parents directly in the eye. “I love him.”
Olivia wondered how silence could sound shocked. The look of angry horror on her mom’s face hurt. Not a muscle in her dad’s face moved, but Olivia remembered that night on the mountainside when her dad had told Kit he would kill him if he ever came near his daughter again.
“And he loves me too,” she hurried to add.
“Those are just words,” sputtered her mom. “They don’t necessarily mean anything.”
Olivia clenched her hands on her knees. “Yes, they do! I told him back when he took me that I could be with someone who wasn’t civilized, so he lived with regular people for a year to learn how to be civilized.”
“Livvy,” her dad said, “you’re our baby girl. We want you to be safe and happy.”
Taking a deep breath, Olivia forced her hands to relax. This was the attitude that Victoria had been dealing with for her whole life. Except, she amended, that Uncle Shadow tended to roar and howl, and her parents kept their voices calm and low.
“Mom. Dad. I love you and I’ll always be your daughter, but I’m not a baby girl any more. I’m grown up now.” She blinked back tears. “I love Kit and he loves me. We’re going to be married. We want your blessing.”
Her mom was shaking her head. “Olivia, how long have you known him? A few weeks? That’s not long enough for love to take root.”
Olivia turned to her dad. “He loves me. Uncle Stone says he does. Kit says he will do anything he can to make me happy. Uncle Stone said he’s telling the truth.”
Her dad’s posture eased minutely. He and her mother exchanged another of those glances that showed nothing but which they seemed to understand completely. “That’s good,” he said in a neutral tone. “Will you be happy living with the mountain cats?”
“We won’t be.” She took her dad’s leathery hand. “They kicked him out because he wanted to learn to become civilized.” She took one of her mom’s hands too. “We’re thinking of taking over the Scranton place. Raise some cattle.”
Her mom’s hand clutched hers hard. “That’s only eight miles from our ranch.”
“Yeah. I’d still be right there. You’d see me all the time.”
Her parents looked at each other again. After a long minute of silent conversation, her dad nodded. “Your mother and I’ll talk it over.”
She didn’t let them free their hands from her grip. “Kit is coming by tonight. You can talk to him too.”
Olivia was sure there was a violent struggle going on behind her dad’s eyes. He squeezed her hand. “Okay. We’ll talk to him too.”
“You won’t attack him?”
The corners of her dad’s mouth turned up a fraction in a tiny smile. “I won’t attack him.”
She lurched forward to grab her mom and dad in a big hug. “Thank you. You’ll like him.”
Her mom gave a sigh that stirred the hair at Olivia’s ear. She leaned back to look into Olivia’s eyes. “Will you really marry him even if we don’t approve?”
Olivia steeled herself. “Yes. But I’d really, really rather have your approval.”
Her mom looked at her for a long moment before nodding. “We’ll see.”
As Olivia hurried out she heard her mom sigh again. “Our little girl has grown up.”
“Yeah,” her dad agreed, with a hint of sorrow in his cool voice. “We better have a word with the boys.”