Thankful jumped the final step in a hurry to greet her lieutenant. Her large and expensive engagement ring glittered on her gloved hand, and she giggled her way closer to Fahy who stood like a proud peacock. William shifted in his boots—determined to sneak off after the first dance and join the rough privates at drinking behind the barracks. The men continued to smoke. Thankful brushed ash from William’s cigar off of Fahy’s coat sleeve.
“Damned sorry about your pony, Weldon,” Fahy tried.
“Yes, well . . .” was all William could muster.
“Any news yet on your wedding dress, my sweet?” Fahy asked Thankful.
“Mama is being difficult, as always,” Thankful replied with a red face.
Mrs. Markham, who had been giving the private final instructions at the back door, came out now into the cool night air. “Good evening, Mr. Fahy. You look well.”
The lieutenant tipped his hat with a smile but noted a sadness in her eyes. “Mrs. Markham, are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine. It’s been a Jonah day, is all.”
William said, “Again, I’m terribly sorry to have brought Miss Peckham. She’s not very nice, is she?”
“You need to ask, Willy?” Thankful sneered.
“Oh, Bill, it’s not about the horrible girl. The captain said he’d send word by now. I miss him—you know how I love a dance with him,” she choked out.
William coughed. “I admire you, ma’am. I remember my mother waiting all alone—like you. You’ve got it hardest in a way because you can’t know all that might happen, but you’re brave. The few weeks I was with you, the captain always seemed so proud of you. I’m sure he’s proud still.”
“Thank you, Bill. I sometimes forget you were one of us.”
William took a lonely breath and glanced at the sky.
Miss Peckham pushed her way through now.
“Is this the same girl, who wore trousers a few hours ago and created such a ruckus?” Fahy asked. “You clean up nicely, Miss Peckham.”
“My proper clothes are still in town, sir. This outfit is positively idiotic on me, I’m sure,” Miss Peckham responded, but it was obvious to all that Miss Peckham was pleased with her looks and the attention the lieutenant gave her.
William enjoyed seeing Thankful with a pout of jealousy—everything should not always go her way.
Thankful spoke. “It’s a shame you’re so long-legged or else that dress might really fit you.”
“Oh, dear, Miss Crenshaw, I’ve hiked the skirt up on purpose. I’m not ashamed of my ankles like thicker legged girls might be and besides, Mr. Weldon will have an easier time without fussy skirts at his feet.”
“That’s very thoughtful of you,” William said with a grin, “but I don’t intend to dance. You have nice ankles though.”
“William!” Thankful scolded, but Fahy gawked at Miss Peckham’s ankles, causing Thankful to pout once more.
Miss Peckham put her arm through William’s. “Shall we be off?”
The group arrived under the soft light of the lanterns. The lieutenant, by far the best and most popular dancer in his fine dress uniform, led in the first German. It was tradition in the regiment for a guest to be given the same honor, and Miss Peckham put herself forward with enthusiasm. Mrs. Markham sought to commiserate with some women from the regiment who also awaited news of their men.
Thankful fumed at the attention Miss Peckham got in her borrowed things. “She’s not even in the remotest way pretty,” she pointed out to William, who stood beside her. “Look there, she missed a step!”
“Golly, Thankful, I’d hate to be under your critical eye if I ever danced.” William puffed his cigar.
Thankful touched his arm and said, “I felt so sorry when she joked about your . . . infirmity.”
“Why? I’m an invalid. There’s no hiding it.”
“It was an insensitive remark. I would never–”
“What? Accept facts? That’s what my parents do, too. Don’t you think I always knew what you thought of me even if you never said it?” William said his pleasant drunkenness taking a switch.
Thankful’s heart leapt. “Excuse me?”
“I like Miss Peckham because she’s honest. Everyone pretends, for my sake, not to notice my limitations—it’s maddening. She laughed about it but also complimented my riding—and she’s right. I’m a good rider if nothing else.”
“If you were so good, you wouldn’t have fallen long ago!” Thankful said.
“You say you’re a friend, but for the life of me I don’t see it,” William said and threw his finished cigar out the window.
“I’m terribly sorry!” Thankful said. “I don’t know what made me say that!”
William let the anger and shame of a secret memory spill from his gold eyes. “I don’t care. I was ten and drunk that night.”
“What are you talking about, Willy?” Thankful asked.
“At the brothel—the women tried to get me drunk enough to go with a man. So yeah, I was pretty unsteady on the horse I tried to escape on. So that’s why I fell.” He’d never spoken about that night.
PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING
Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s misadventures when you buy the book today!
“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review
“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”
4 responses to “Fiction: Why William Weldon Fell”
Finally the revelation about William’s game leg. And so much game playing among all the characters – I’m ready to make a spreadsheet to keep track. Too bad Thankful doesn’t see Willy’s heart – I suspect she’s in for a long, heartbreaking lesson on people.
When I first wrote about Thankful I imagined she’d be the the epitome of gratitude and cheer. Little did I know she had so much conflict beneath the surface. William does have a gentle heart and I’, glad you see it.
So appreciate your interest and comments, Shari. They make my day!
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