Monday, May 15, 2006

Kin to the Saboteur - Ch. 11

On the Fourth of July, the city of Miskito had a grand celebration like many of its neighboring cities. There was plenty of food, music, and lots of activities in the immaculately kept town park. One of those activities was arm wrestling. So far, the only people participating in the arm wrestling contests were men. That soon changed when Halona Ackerman came to the park an hour before sunset.

Choosing not to fellowship with people who constantly used these types of occasions to pull her aside and petition her for money, Halona had deliberately stayed away from the festivities until close to the very end. Ironically, she didn’t mind fellowshipping with the same people on Sundays since they all respected the Lord’s Day and sent their petitions heavenward instead.

On the outside Miss Ackerman looked like any other modest woman in her midnight-blue dress with its white lace at the collar and the lower sleeves. Yet with her long straight black hair rebelliously not sporting a bonnet like the other women around her, and her ebony eyes flashing challenge at the men around her, Halona looked like a firecat.

The other men surrounding Halona politely bowed out of the challenge. Many didn’t want to deal with the possibility of losing to a woman in so public a place. Some of them had already suffered that humiliation in previous years and didn’t want a repeat performance.

Adam readily stepped forward. He wasn’t afraid of rising to any challenge, least of all to this challenge. Besides, he desperately wanted to touch some part of Halona’s smooth deep bronze skin. Especially since he hadn’t seen her all day.

Positioning his elbow and forearm in the required manner on the wooden block between them, Adam mentally geared up for this test of will and strength. Little did he know that this was Halona’s private test to see which man in town was actually husband material for her. The fellow first had to be man enough to accept the challenge. Secondly, he had to honestly beat her at arm wrestling. Finally, he had to be of mixed descent since that would make the legalities of their marriage that much smoother.

Each year since her father died there had been fewer and fewer takers. The last one had been Griffin Haines and Halona had derived great pleasure from beating him at something for the second time in her life. The first time had been in a school yard fight, surrounded by all of their classmates from age four to sixteen. Griffin had been bigger and stronger, but Halona had been wiser and quicker, and thus had obtained the victory.

Today Halona had a different opponent. Adam was bigger and stronger, too. Certainly man enough to accept a challenge from a woman. However, he didn’t look mixed with anything but white on top of white with all that fiery auburn hair and those adorable freckles.

Halona’s brows only rose slightly at her confident opponent as she took a seat on a wooden crate across from Adam. “I expect you to put your all into it, Mr. Thorpe. Do not consider my gender at all,” she said, speaking to him in a formal tone.

Adam smiled. “I put my all into everything I do, Miss Ackerman,” he replied just as formally. “And even though your gender is pretty hard to ignore in such a lovely dress, I will not let it affect me in this matter,” he added, briefly perusing her frame in appreciation.

Halona smirked in challenge, despite the tingles brought about from the way Adam had caressed her with his eyes. “See that you don’t, Mr. Thorpe,” she replied curtly, pretending to ignore his compliment. Now if she could only stopped tingling she would be all right.

Then at the sound of the mediator’s (Sheriff Birch’s) ‘Ready’ command, all of the new opponents grasped hands across the wooden blocks that they were stationed at. Two sets of opponents were on Halona and Adam’s left and two other sets were on their right. The Thorpe and Ackerman match was at the center block.

Then at the issuance of Sheriff Birch’s ‘Go’ command and corresponding one-shot fired in the air, all of the opponents began to go for what they knew. At first Halona showed all the signs of winning as her fingers tightened around Adam’s and the strength in her right arm propelled his downward. The whole time she gazed into his warm honey-brown eyes, waiting to see the moment he recognized he was defeated.

Meanwhile, a crowd began to gather around the center block, making Adam and Halona truly the center of attention now. One very interested person in the crowd was Griffin Haines, the owner of The Miskito Buzz - the same newspaper that often reported more gossip than news in its pages.

Griffin wanted to see Halona defeated. Yet he wanted to be the person to do it. Perhaps after she got through arm wrestling the red-haired fellow, he’d give it another shot. Griffin’s ego had since healed up from the last time and he was ready for a rematch. As a result, he secretly routed for Halona to win.

Unbeknownst to Griffin, Adam would not give Halona or anyone else the satisfaction of seeing him lose today. In fact, he did everything he could to win. Adam didn’t consider Halona’s gender, his attraction to her, or the main reason he’d sought her out in the first place as he concentrated on obtaining the victory.

Halona was equally focused as she used every trick she could think of to win. She utilized tried and true pressure points to weaken Adam’s grasp, but that didn’t work. She tilted her wrist just a bit to add more force behind her downward push, yet that didn’t work, either. Now feeling the sweat of exertion bead upon her forehead, Halona prepared herself for the worst as her arm was slowly but surely lowered in the direction of defeat.

As soon as her wrist hit the block, Halona snatched her hand away from Adam as if she’d just been burnt by a firebrand. She stood abruptly to her feet with a face as stormy as a rain cloud. Yet behind Halona’s anger, and larking only for a brief moment in her eyes, was a touch of fear.

“You were a worthy opponent, Mr. Thorpe,” Halona squeezed out, before turning on her heels and disappearing into the crowd that had gathered to watch the intense center match. She would not be arm wrestling anyone else today.

Nodding, Adam stood to his feet as well. He’d wanted to say a few words of consolation to his opponent, but she’d departed so fast and a throng of onlookers had already surrounded him in congratulations. After graciously accepting his accolades and turning down matches from men who’d been too cowardly to accept the challenge of the town’s number one benefactor, Adam set out in search of Halona. He’d seen the flash of fear in her eyes and had been deeply disturbed by it.

Quickly perusing the immediate area for Halona, Adam soon discovered that she had left the scene altogether. There was no sign of her or her carriage anywhere. Halfway to the hitching post where his horse awaited him, Adam was approached by Halona’s best friend.

“She’s at her waterfall,” Elnora whispered, not above playing matchmaker. She’d seen the way Adam and Halona looked at one another during the match and whenever she visited the fields. Plus, Elnora knew about Halona’s arm wrestling test and suspected that her friend had run off scared after being confronted with her potential life-mate.

“Waterfall? I didn’t know waterfalls were in this area?” Adam replied, untying Cimarron’s reins from the heavy hitching post. He’d heard about other waterfalls in Nebraska, but there hadn’t been any mention of one being located in Miskito.

“It’s her private waterfall. No one knows where it is but me, her, and our parents,” Elnora said in that continuously low tone. Then she began to give him the exact location.

When Adam saddled up and left with those discreet directions, Elnora smiled secretly to herself and turned to go find Napoleon before the first firework lit up the sky. In her heart, Elnora prayed that Adam would be the man to fill the bill for Halona in every respect that she needed.

~~<<>>~~

Meanwhile, Griffin Haines made his way down the street to the building that housed his newspaper. He needed a quiet place to think, away from the crowd. What did Griffin have to think so hard about today? Simply put – he had to ponder about Halona’s interaction with her opponent and how affected she’d been by the red-haired man.

Although Griffin doubted if Halona would ever deliberately throw a fight, he’d clearly seen how she was defeated long before her wrist ever hit the block. The more she’d looked in that man’s eyes, the more it was obvious that she had a weakness for him. There was undeniable chemistry between Halona and Adam and anyone who’d observed them as closely as Griffin had today would have surely seen it.

Griffin’s only comfort was the fact that Adam looked even whiter than him and thus would not be suitable husband material for Halona, either. And even if Adam did fit the bill, the newspaperman would be the first to stand up in court and accuse Halona of having Negro blood in her to stop such a union. After all, the progressive mixed tribe that Halona’s mother belonged to was known for marrying beyond color lines.

With that burden off his mind, Griffin unlocked the door to his office and prepared to write the first fruits of next week’s publication. He’d seen and heard a lot on this humid Independence Day and couldn’t wait to comment on it. Next week’s front page headline: ‘Man Finally Puts Ackerman Beauty In Her Place’.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

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