An excerpt from Chapter 1 of the completed novel UNDER THE CAROLINA STARS by Addison Brannon:
The corner of a ragged brown envelope poked from a stack of building ledgers and receipts. With an air of resignation, William pulled the envelope from the stack and sat down at the table, smoothing the pages with a gentle hand. The thin sheets were creased from being folded and unfolded over and again. When William needed to hear his mother’s voice, when he couldn’t stand the solitude any longer he would read her letters. He skimmed the page, eye stopping on a line of painfully familiar writing. Affection without words of encouragement remains merely affection. His mother had been writing of mostly trivial things, of life in Hillsborough, but had slipped this line into her letter rather seamlessly attributing it to a thing she read in a book of daily proverbs. She did things like this, dropped pearls of wisdom or advice that she knew would be applicable to her son. His struggle with words was one she knew well, one she had learned to recognize from her own husband, William’s father.
He exhaled placing his head in his hands, elbows propped up on either side of the letter. Her words illuminated by his mind. He loved Mary and there was no doubting she held him in some playful regard but if his mother’s proverb was correct, and he knew it was, her affection would not likely bloom into love without proper encouragement.
When twilight approached he could stand the anxiety no longer. He had to tell Mary how he felt. Had to push her affections, to test their limits.
Using his mother’s pitcher, he splashed water into the porcelain ewer and grabbed a soap cake. He scrubbed his face and hands, focusing for a long time on his fingernails. He yanked his cleanest shirt from the hook next to the door. Pulling the shirt over his head, he proceeded outside, coat in hand. He beat the coat several times against a pine tree as a way of removing the dirt and dust which was undoubtedly there and slid it on at a brisk walk.
When he came into view of the parsonage he stopped dead, turning to go home before he could be seen. I can’t do this, he thought. She would think him crazy. He walked back toward the woodline before he whirled around and headed straight up the steps and to the door. He had to act quickly before he could change his mind. Telling another person his innermost thoughts and feelings was enough to make his stomach churn. The fear of rejection paralyzed his thoughts.
“Oh God, what am I doing? This is a mistake!” he whispered to himself. He gripped the porch railing fiercely.
Standing in front of the door he raised his hand to knock, hovering there for several seconds. Before he had the opportunity to flee, the door opened.
Mary’s father stood looking slightly perplexed but addressed the young man in front of him cheerful enough.
“William! What can I do for ya lad?”
Mary was inside the front room and was standing, mending in hand, and face shining with excitement. He had to do this now.
“Yes sir,” he began. “I’d like to speak to Mary, just for a moment sir, here on the porch, if that’s allowed…” The statement came out sounding far more questionable than he would have liked.
The minister’s bushy eyebrows shot up to his hairline but he nodded and Mary came to the porch wrapped in a shawl. She closed the door behind her with a quiet thunk. Her parents were left standing inside together, one with a knowing look and the other completely dumbfounded. The young couple stood in silence for a few moments shifting their feet and looking everywhere but at each other. Finally, Mary trained him with an expectant look before she broke their silence.
“William…,” Mary began hesitantly.
“I love you,” he blurted. “With my whole body, I love you! I think of you at all hours, I wake up thinking of you, I lay down in my bed thinking of you..” he trailed off shocked at what had burst from his lips.
Count her affections encouraged, he thought, annoyed with himself.