REMINGTON & PHOEBE
I turn my head in a leisurely fashion to look next to me at Blake on my right, and then Quint on my left, as I’m leaning against one of the wooden beams in the reception hall of my good friend Quint and his wife, Lady Penniford.
Quint and Lady Penniford married in a small, private ceremony over three years ago. With all that was going on with Lady Penniford graduating from medical school, and then her securing residency, they decided to wait a while to have a reception and honeymoon. I’ve never seen Quint as happy as he has been since Mrs. Penni came into his life.
“That would be rude, now, wouldn’t it? To take a picture of someone without their consent is just not done,” I say sarcastically.
Blake, of course, looks at me with derision. “I know what I see,” he says and walks off with a smirk.
I like Blake normally. He’s a hard worker and a nice guy, but right now, I don’t like him very much.
I walk over to the refreshments table and pick up a cup for some punch. Just as I’m about to ladle the red juice into my cup, a sound so sweet cuts through my chest and hits me like a jackhammer.
I drop the ladle into the bowl; juice splatters over the side of it as I quickly turn in the direction of that pretty laughter and take a few steps toward the object of my love.
Miss Phoebe Washington. God has blessed that woman with beauty and smarts. I drink in her light-brown skin; big, pale-gray eyes; and head full of chocolate brown hair, which she’s wearing pinned up with small flowers all through it. Her bi-racial, indigenous, and brown American heritages are prominent.
I’ve admired Miss Phoebe for quite some time. Since the first day she visited the Sawyer Ranch to visit her best friend, Lady Penniford, three years ago, in fact. She didn’t notice me, but I clearly noticed her and everything about her.
I love it when she smiles. From where I’m standing, I have a side-view of her, and I can see her pretty white teeth gleaming brightly against her smooth skin and beautiful small nose. She has the cutest dimples, I’ve ever seen.
“May the Lord have mercy on you. You got it bad.”
I turn. Quint is standing next to me with his arms folded in front of him with a look that tells me, he thinks he knows what I’m thinking.
If there is ever a better man, it’s Quint Sayer. I was proud four years ago when I officiated over their vows and was proud again today when I stood up there, and they renewed them. The first time was in a little church in town that Quint had grown up attending.
Quint is deserving of his blessings. He’s had his fair share of trials. Trials only God could have carried him through, and now, his ranch is prospering, along with his family.
Any man or woman who doesn’t believe in the true blessings of God would be a little jealous of all that Quint has. Well, I’m a believer in the blessings of God, and jealousy is a sin, so that’s all I’ll say about that.
“You standing here, holding an empty cup, drooling over Phoebe,” Quint continues.
“You must be mistaken” is all I say and walk back to the refreshments table; unfortunately, Blake is there.
I eighty-six the refreshments table and hightail it toward the open barn doors. Quint and, of course, the rest of us, along with the help of some small construction equipment, built this barn for the reception. I step out into the sunlight and lean on the railing.
“Oh,” Quint starts in again, coming out to lean on the railing next to me, followed by Blake, “you must be mistaken ’cause the only other person my wife is talking to over there is Phoebe. So, it must be Miss Phoebe that you’re staring at.”
“I have never seen you so out of sorts. What’s it been, Quint? Two…?” Blake prompts.
It’s true. There are times when Miss Phoebe visits Lady Penniford that I’m all out of sorts, agitated even. Don’t know whether it’s because there are long periods in between each visit or I just miss seeing her so dang much. But I can’t help it; Miss Phoebe has gotten in my heart, and I don’t know how that happened.
“Three?” Quint suggests.
“Four years. Four years since you nearly fell off your horse staring at Miss Phoebe when you saw her that first time,” Blake recalls with a sly smile.
Now, Miss Phoebe doesn’t know how I feel, and I don’t plan on ever telling her. But it’s getting harder and harder to hide my feelings from her. Whenever I’m in proximity to the woman, I stare at the back of her head, avoiding looking her in the eyes. And if I can help it, I leave any space that she comes into.
I look around Blake to see if Miss Phoebe is still where I last saw her. Blake follows my gaze. “I don’t know what either of you are talking about. Sure, she’s a smart and beautiful woman. So?” I shrug.
They look at each other. Blake reminds me, “We didn’t say anything about her looks…”
“…or how smart she is,” Quint finishes, and they both chuckle loudly.
I don’t like that they think they know me better than I want them to. But Blake and Quint are close to me, like brothers, and they know that I’m out of sorts, which is true. They also know the reason why: Phoebe Washington.
I glance around Blake again so I can see her. I unfold my arms. Phoebe is no longer talking to Lady Penniford, instead moving to chat with one of the ranch hands, Justin.
“What in the world could she have to talk to Justin about? That uncivilized Philistine…,” I say out loud.
That sets Blake and Quint off in a loud fit of laughter. I look between Blake and Quint. What I said can’t have been that funny. They are so loud, Miss Phoebe looks this way and then heads straight for me—I mean, us.
I look down at my boots and shake my head.
“Okay. What’s so funny?” she asks.
Like a slingshot, my head snaps up, and I look at her. Her voice is sweet-sounding to my ears. Standing directly in front of me, looking straight into my eyes, is the most beautiful woman on God’s Earth, wrapped up in the Goodness of God’s Word.
“Nothing,” Quint answers and walks away.
“Not a thing,” Blake seconds and follows Quint; the two men walk back into the barn.
“The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” Exodus 14:14, I recite to myself. I hold my peace.
I can’t look away because she’s looking at me. So, we stand here looking at each other. She’s still waiting on an answer to her question. It seems we stare at each other for a long moment.
“So, what’s so funny, Mr. Remington?” she asks in her sweet voice.
That did it. When she calls me Mr. Remington, that really gets my attention because there is respect there. This woman can holler at me from the top of her lungs, and I would think her voice is sweet.
I admire her; she is the same as the first day I met her. I’ve always seen her at her happiest when she is with Lady Penniford. Her face lights up like a bright rainbow to me then, as if she’s the colors in the sky as I’m just getting off the ark of Noah.
I don’t want to lie to her.
“Miss Phoebe, I can’t lie…. That was an act by my two would-be friends to get you over here so that we can be alone together,” I simply say.
She smiles and leans with her hip on the railing next to me, facing me. “Now, why would they be doing that?”
We are inches apart, so close that I inhale her flowery smell. Oh, she knows what she’s doing. But I will not be swayed.
Now, something dawned on me about a year ago. Those times when Miss Phoebe and I have come into close contact, and she smiles and laughs at whoever she’s talking to, she sometimes steals a glance in my direction. I know this because whenever she glances at me, I’m already looking at her.
The day I met Miss Phoebe for the first time, and our hands touched when we shook, my hand felt like it was on fire. I pulled back so fast from the unexpected tingling sensation from our hands touching. I wiped my hands on the outside of my jeans as if scraping something off my skin. But in truth, I was trying to shake the tingling feeling. And the look on her face said she experienced the same thing.
I’ve made it a main duty of mine that whenever Miss Phoebe is on the ranch visiting, I avoid her at all costs, like she is a hornet’s nest. She may think I don’t care for her company, which is the absolute opposite of the truth.
I clear my throat. “Miss Phoebe, you will excuse me, but my cohorts thought I had something funny to say to you. But in fact, I am not funny at all. Will you please pardon me?” I request, removing myself and heading in the direction of the parking lot.
The further I get from Miss Phoebe, the lower my head gets, and the lower I feel. I know Miss Phoebe is sweet on me, and I am definitely sweet on her, but something is blooming between us, and I think, if we put fertilizer on that feeling, the fire would set us aflame. That could be disastrous.