Week after week, Willie tried hard to contain her excitement while waiting for Albert. She was finding it more and more difficult to concentrate on her duties although she hadn’t yet faltered.
The following Monday marked six months since she had first seen Albert and her feelings had grown stronger with each passing week. Did she dare hope for a future with him?
If she had any doubts, they quickly disappeared when Albert arrived. He took her face in his hands and gently kissed her. She had longed for this moment and was suddenly lost in a world of feelings that she had never known. She felt as if she was lifting off the ground.
When she opened her eyes, Albert spoke. “My darling, do you know how very much I love you? Could I possibly hope that you love me too?” Willie looked into his cool blue eyes and said “yes, I do.”
Albert took her hands and said “then I want to ask you to do something for me.” Trying hard to control her emotions, Willie asked him what he wanted her to do.
“I want you to go away with me,” said Albert.
Willie was frozen with fear for a moment. Her thoughts were spinning in her head as she wondered how she would fit into his world. A world of wealth and prominence. A world of opulent homes. A world she did not know. How would that world of high-born people receive a poor working class girl like her?
Papa had told her that when two people truly loved each other, it was the greatest of all gifts. But would that gift be enough to balance her poverty against his wealth?
Putting her doubts and fears aside, Willie agreed and asked when he wanted her to go away with him. “Next week,” he said.
Not thinking of Papa or her brothers, Willie quickly said “yes, I will.” Albert smiled and said “then I will be waiting here for you.” She watched as he turned and walked down the long dark hallway.
At the end of her shift, the foreman arrived and unlocked the door. He hesitated as if he wanted to speak but after a moment he walked away, saying nothing.
For a brief moment, Willie thought “what a strange man,” but her mind was on Albert.
The next five days seemed to her like five years. Papa had noticed a glow about Willie and it made his heart sing. After church, as she was readying lunch, Papa sat in the rocking chair and asked Willie about the fetching young man.
“Might I know his name?” Papa asked. Willie beamed as she said “his name is Albert, Papa and he told me he loved me.”
As he listened to her words they seemed to be taking flight, leaving trails of light like the fireflies she used to chase when she was a child. Papa could tell that the young man had completely captivated Willie. He remembered how young love felt and he so much wanted that for his little girl.
Papa winked at her and playfully said “are you sure he’s not having you on then?” Willie laughed and said “behave Papa. Yes, I’m quite sure.”
Willie didn’t tell Papa that Albert had asked her to go away with him and the only guilt she felt was for the guilt she didn’t feel.
While she was getting ready for work, Papa saw the happiness on her face and smiled as he listened to the Christmas carols she was humming. “She’s thinking about her mother,” he thought. “How glorious it would be if only she could see the joy our little girls’ heart.”
As she was walking out the door, Papa said “you didn’t tell me his last name, child.”
Willie said “Middleton, Papa. His name is Albert Middleton.”
Willie didn’t notice the color drain from Papas’ face as she walked away.
To be continued_________________