Kimsey Rise, A Family of Farmers
by Cecilia Johansen
Chapter 34 Forsaken
Another year and Junior was as tall as his father and working hard with his brothers Littleberry and Samuel, the McCrackens, and Clark Biggerstaff. There wasn’t much time to see Hannah with all the work. Junior’s sister Lizzie and Clark had another baby. They still lived within the fort’s confines, but Clark had purchased some prime farmland close to the Kimseys’ compound and wanted to start building soon.
Knoxville continued to grow and prosper. More and more settlers were bringing their hopes and dreams with them to the burgeoning community. Many thought they had unfettered access to Indian lands beyond those borders, and Jamie began to feel the pressure of “all these people” and then they heard the news that the McCrackens were going back to South Carolina.
“What?” Junior screamed. “It can’t be! You can’t! Again? Hannah…no…”
He was heartbroken. He cried. Unashamed, he cried. Junior didn’t care why they were leaving. All he knew was his precious Hannah was going out of his life. How could they? He had been planning and saving a small pittance here and there, working stolen moments for other farmers in the region who might give him a coin or two for his efforts. They knew what he was doing and applauded him for it, but what they did not know was Junior wanted to ask for Hannah’s hand next year. There was a good piece of land on a bluff above the compound. He would have it—and his Hannah.
Jamie wondered about the cause of the frenetic burst of activity in his son, and this day, as the McCrackens tied the last cup next to the water barrel, the light of understanding dawned on him. Oh, God! All this time he’s been preparing for his life with her!
Hannah and Junior walked up to the bluff overlooking the long broad river. They wondered together where the river ended. Perhaps in a far western land; maybe in an ocean somewhere; or into a great divide of mountains. The separation they felt was already painful. They knew they were meant to be together. Mack said they were too young. She told Junior that, but not the rest. Hannah did not want her father’s words to hurt him. Junior is not yet a man.
They held hands, walked awhile, then stopped in the deep wood. The odor of the land was strong in their nostrils. Potent desire arose with the closeness of their bodies—where two would become one—and the moment was right for the kiss he’d always wanted to give her. Junior took a step closer, and Hannah did not back away. He looked in her eyes and saw the same love he had for her.
Suddenly shy, Junior asked, “May I kiss you, Hannah?”
She drew near. He hoped it wouldn’t be awkward when he touched her lips. He really didn’t know what to expect. Would she cry? Would he? Bringing her to him, he felt the delight of holding her in his arms, her breasts pressing against his chest, and a sudden throbbing in his groin. They kissed again, this time with a passion neither had ever known before. Junior didn’t want it to end.
“Hannah Jane!” Mollie’s voice cut like the crack of a whip, a cutting of skin, a strike of a fist. From the edge of the wood, she called, “It’s time to go!”
Hannah’s cheeks were wet with tears of love and longing. “Will I ever see you again, James Kimsey?” She ran away from him, her passion expending itself in the labored exertion of her limbs.
“What were you doing out there, daughter?”
“Nothing, Mother! Absolutely nothing!” She went to the back of the wagon with John and the other McCracken children to venture to God knows where, she thought, sorely distressed. Hannah wanted no more questions.
John was ready to tease his sister with a smart quip until he saw her face. Mercifully, he refrained.
* * *
It was dark and a long time after supper when Junior finally came home. He went straight to his bed in the loft, no longer the inexperienced lad he had been before that day. Jamie and Mary stared after him, wondering. Junior was junior no longer. He was James Kimsey and would not give up his dream.
Jamie and Mary spoke quietly together that night.
“What will we do without our very good friends the McCrackens…never mind their solid help in everything we’ve done here. I will miss them tremendously,” and she thought, The value I place on Mollie’s friendship. How will I fare without her.
Jamie didn’t know how to respond. He felt the same way but more so because of his son—and he told his wife that.
Mary sat for a moment before speaking. “I knew they were close, but I didn’t want them ‘to stir up love before it’s time’ like it says in the book of Solomon.”
“It’s too late for that, Mary. He loves Hannah with a love I’ve only seen once before.”
Mary looked at him with a blank expression on her face.
“Don’t you remember? It was you and me. I loved you from the first time I laid eyes on you. You were only four years old and a big pain in my neck the way you used to follow me around. Drove me crazy,” he said with a gentle laugh. “Junior’s already planning on asking her to marry him. He’s got eyes on that piece of vacant land.”
Her smile turned to a thoughtful frown. “No…It can’t be? The poor boy.” She turned her face toward him.
They rocked in tandem as the fire burned brightly.
“Jamie, can I ask you a question?”
“Yes, of course.”
“When Junior was sick last year, I came into the room, and even though you were asleep holding him, I noticed the tears on your face. Why were you crying so? I know you were worried.”
Jamie sat for a moment and remembered the thing he never told his wife or his son. The fire crackled and spat out a log which tumbled onto the hearth. He stood and grasped it with the tongs, placing it back where it belonged, then held to the mantelpiece for support and spoke slowly.
“You know I love all our children dearly, but Junior was always a special gift to me. I’ll never forget the harm I caused you all, but when we had him, I absolutely knew I was forgiven.” He took a moment before continuing. “When Junior was sick, I prayed to God that night to spare him and take my life instead. Our good God told me ‘No. You will care for this boy and he will grow into a fine man. I have special work for you and him to do.’ I heard his voice clearly, and, Mary”—he faced her—“I wish to become a Baptist minister, as Ben did following his promise to God so very long ago.”
This revelation was a grand calling. She took his hands across the space between them and was filled with joy. The quiet in the room was only disturbed by a creak in the loft above them. Junior and Littleberry had been listening from their beds. Berry patted his brother’s shoulder, and they both turned over and went back to sleep, silently blessing the parents they had been given.