Lou was lost in her own thoughts through most of supper, the party going on about her as she worried. She barely roused when Jimmy brushed a kiss to her temple as he walked her under the mistletoe a second time. "Careful," he prodded, "folks'll think you're havin' second thoughts about marryin' me."
"I'm sorry," she sighed, "I've got something on my mind." She turned to brush a kiss against his lips, her hands flush against his chest to balance as she rose up on the balls of her feet. "I'm not much company tonight."
"No complaints here."
She gave him a smile, but as soon as he turned to escort her back to the settee it faltered.
It wasn't until they were ready to leave and Jimmy set her cloak on her shoulders that she roused again from her musings.
Polly stepped forward and took Louise by the shoulders, pressing a kiss to each cheek in turn before releasing her into Teaspoon's arms. He hugged her tightly and then held her at arm's length, looking at her face for a long moment.
Louise blinked up at him, sensing there was something more to his mood than just a goodbye. The air crackled with cold but there was a warmth that infused the air around the; his smile kindled her spirits. "What is it, Teaspoon?"
His smile widened. "Nothin' much, sweetheart. I was just takin' a good look at you."
She raised a hand up to her cheek, pressing the tips of her fingers against the side of her face. "Have I changed much since yesterday?"
He pulled her back into his arms again, rocking her slightly from side to side. "You make me smile, girl. I just remember how you looked the day I met you. Dust-covered and hungry for a job to call your own." A moment later, when she was nearly out of breath he set her away and gave Jimmy a nod. "Now lookit you. All growed up and 'bout to be married."
Jimmy smiled and slipped his arm around her, his hand resting at her waist. "Just a few more months."
Teaspoon's express turned thoughtful. "You best be gettin' her back to the hotel. Tomorrow is Christmas and there's a lot to do."
Polly slipped her hand into the crook of his arm and the two strolled off toward home.
Louise might have stood there in front of Rachel's house all night if Jimmy hadn't taken her hand in his and started down the street. "You've been distracted all night."
"I know… I'm sorry."
He gave her hand a squeeze as they passed the blacksmith shop. "Don't be, I just… I wish you'd tell me what's on your mind."
They continued on for a few steps in silence, Louise turning away to look over the silent town as they passed by. "You'll think it's silly."
Jimmy continued to walk along beside her, his attention straying from their destination to her pensive expression. "Try me."
They turned down a side street, but Louise didn't seem to notice, her thoughts distracted. "I have this paper," she began, "a drawing really. It's nothing much, just a piece of paper."
"What's this drawing of?"
She looked down at her feet for a moment before looking back at him. "A house."
He continued to look forward as they walked his steps even with hers. "I see." Another few steps. "A particular house?"
Her lips curved slightly. "My favorite." The chill in the air bit into her skin a little and she was thankful that the wind was still and didn't cut into her with shivers. "When I first knew Charlotte, some of the ladies would buy the magazines… to pass the time. So when they were done with them, they'd give them to me. I didn't much care for the stories or music, but the dresses…" she kicked at her hem a little and watched it flare out over the toe of her boot, "they were so lovely."
"But this was a house?"
She nodded. "Yes, a house." She blinked back sudden tears. "The instant I saw it, I knew that it was perfect."
"What did it look like?"
"The house?" Louise turned toward him and cold only see the side of his face as they continued on. "Yes, well, two stories, a porch wrapped around the bottom floor, and a staircase in the center of the first floor going up to the bedrooms."
"It was beautiful." Her words barely made a sound in the hush of the evening."I'd show it to you," she began, "but I can't find the paper."
Guilt weighed down his feet and he stopped, his resolve faltering in the face of her worries. "Lou, I-"
"It's so silly," she laughed a little, shaking her head as she turned away for a moment, "I mean, it's just a piece of paper, but I…" she turned back to look at him, her eyes wide and dark in the winter night, "I wanted that house."
Jimmy felt it all the way down in his gut, that horrible feeling that he'd done something stupid. "Lou, I-"
"Oh, I know we haven't talked about it much," her words rushed over his as she struggled with her thoughts, "but last month when Buck mentioned the Perkins place was up for sale I started thinkin'. I know that the Perkins house is nice, real nice, but I… what I mean is..."
She couldn't seem to form the words but Jimmy was a man who'd learned his lesson a long time ago. One didn't rush Louise and if he wanted to live with all of his fingers, toes, and other parts intact he'd let her find them on her time. But the most important reason why he stood there silently was that she amazed him at every turn.
She stopped mid-gesture and stared back at him. "You must think I've gone crazy."
He shook his head. "No, I am."
Her quizzical look was the only response.
"I should have known you'd miss it, but I thought…" He sighed, his breath visible in the moonlight as a small whirling cloud, "I had hoped to give this to you tomorrow." Digging into his coat pocket he pulled out folded papers and held it out to her.
She released his hand and took the paper from him, opening it up to discover not just sheet but two. The first was the picture of her house, worn a little at the edges, but the lines still pristinely visible against the pale surface of the paper. She blinked up at him. "Why would you take this?"
He shrugged a little, the broad expanse of his shoulders rising and falling in a familiar gesture. "I saw you lookin' at it… saw the way you touched the lines like it was gold."
"So you knew about the house."
Jimmy's smile broadened. "I know a few things." A snowflake set down on a curl near her temple and Jimmy reached up to brush it away. "Just like I know I'm no good at drawin' things myself… or describing things to folks that don't know me." He reached over and pulled the second piece of paper out from behind the first and set them back in her hands. "So I had to send them the actual drawing to make sure they got it right."
Louise looked down at the paper and read through the words.
Archer & Sons Lumber
"A house." The words whispered from her lips as she felt tears well in her eyes. Louise switched the papers again, her eyes flickering over the familiar drawing. "Oh, Jimmy… When? Where?"
"When? A week or two more for the lumber delivery. Where?" He took her gently by the shoulders and turned her to the side. She'd been so lost in her thoughts that she hadn't noticed where they were walking. They were at the far end of town, an area with a few houses dotting the darkened landscape, small trees and gardens barely visible in the moonlight. Outlines gilt in the silver fall of snow. "Well, if you like this piece of land, it's for sale."
She glanced up at him with a soft smile warming her lips and lifted the drawing up, setting it against the land as if it was a canvas, imagining the way it would look. "You ordered my house."
"Well," he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against his taller frame, "I was hoping it would be our house."
She laid her arms over his, hugging him closer in the soft fall of snow. "Yes, our house."
Nail by nail and board by board
inspired by: The House That Built Me sung by: Miranda Lambert
Breathtaking Prompt - In the Snow