Two weeks went by since Antonio saw Paul. He threw himself into his work minding the land. From sun up till sun down he picked, packed and cleaned. Antonio desperately missed Ruth. About this time of the year she would be canning fruits and making him one of her delicious cherry pies with the crust that took years to perfect, at least that’s what she would say. Antonio knew he would have to eventually hire some help with the land. He remembered during peak picking season Frances would go into town and hire a few young boys to help out and Ruth would always send them home with a bag of fresh produce. Antonio wanted to feel sorry for himself, but he thought about the words in Frances’s letter. He couldn’t disappoint him. He had to believe his life had purpose even if Frances and Ruth weren’t there to guide him. He had to carry out the legacy somehow.
Early the next morning the Fall air felt cool as Antonio loaded up the wagon for the market. He cleaned himself up, and put on a nice collared shirt, pressed pants with polished boots, thinking he would pay Paul a visit after selling at the market. He felt the need to be around people who cared, who knew Frances and Ruth.
Selling at the market went well. Antonio sold all that he brought. A few of the older ladies that knew Ruth did their usual routine of inviting him to dinner, and pinching his cheeks telling him they had daughters his age if he was interested. Some even commented, “A young handsome man like yourself should not be minding all that land on your own.” Antonio just smiled as he usually did and politely thanked them for the invitation. Having a wife was something Antonio didn’t think much about being that he really didn’t know any young ladies. He saw them when he went to school, but he was done with school now, the land was a full-time job. He could barely squeeze time in to daydream. He felt there was so much to learn about the land and carrying out the legacy. Besides, Antonio felt so unprepared for such a relationship. As he often did he dismissed the thought while leaving the market.
While traveling down the dusty road to Paul’s house Antonio thought about his sister, she must have a started a family by now, he thought. He wanted to see her and run up and down the hills the way they did before he left her at Claire and Jonathan’s home. He couldn’t help to long for simpler times. That’s why he had to see Paul. Paul would know what to say to encourage him.
When Antonio arrived at Paul’s he found Paul sitting on the front porch rocking and basking in the mid-day sun. When Paul noticed he had a visitor and it was Antonio, he jumped up surprised causing the blanket across his lap to fall to the ground.
“Antonio, my boy, what a surprise!”
Antonio noticed Paul looking slightly pale. “Are you alright Paul,” he asked concerned?
“Oh, I’ll be fine. Just a little under the weather. I wanted to come see you last week, but the Miss thought I should give myself a little more time to get better. I’m glad to see you son, you look good.”
Antonio looked down at himself knowing Ruth would have been proud.
Paul yelled for Elizabeth, his middle daughter to set another place at the table for dinner. His command brought his other two daughters to the front porch door peeking and stealing glances at their dinner guest. The girls giggled when Antonio said hello and nervously ran back away from the door. Elizabeth fixed her attention on setting the table and making sure the food was prepared and ready to serve. Her mom was nearby working canning peaches. Elizabeth loved working in the kitchen with her mom. She was the only one out of her sisters that paid any attention when her mom gave lessons on sewing, cooking and cleaning. With much excitement her sisters ran in the kitchen fussing over who Antonio would like better. They primped and tossed their hair back and forth rehearsing the words they thought he would like to hear. Elizabeth ignored them and kept working. She was used to this type of behavior from her sisters when a potential male guest joined them.
When they all sat down to eat, Paul instructed Antonio to eat to his heart’s content. That’s exactly what Antonio did. The meal reminded him of something Ruth would have fixed. Paul complimented Elizabeth on the great meal. Elizabeth replied with a shy thank you. Meanwhile her sisters took turns trying to get Antonio’s attention. Antonio didn’t remember them being so forward but his attention was focused on Elizabeth. He watched her as she cleared the table and disappeared into the kitchen. He liked her graceful movements and calm demeanor. Antonio was surprised at what he was feeling. He didn’t know what to do. His mind was telling him to follow her into the kitchen, but he didn’t dare want to disrespect her or Paul. He just wanted to get to know her. He felt somehow drawn to her. Paul must have noticed where Antonio’s attention was focused because he quickly invited Antonio into the parlor to have their dessert.
Once they were seated he looked intently at Antonio. “I think I will send Elizabeth over to help you prepare for the winter season. She is skilled at canning and can help care for the animals.”
Antonio didn’t know what to say, he didn’t want to put her to work, but strangely he wanted her around. “I will pay her,” said Antonio.
“As you wish,” said Paul. “I’ll bring her by first thing in the morning.”
As they ate their dessert Antonio felt like his life was about to had take a different turn.