Zach Henderson Martha Hershberger
Mitchellville is a quiet and serene village after sunset. People of the village were predominantly farmers and they head to the village bar to unwind and relax after a hard day’s toil. That evening might have been like any other evening if a certain ice blue pick-up truck hadn’t strayed into their lands just as the sun was about to retire for the day.
An ice blue truck turned sharply into a muddy road and hurtled speedily towards the side of the road. It screeched to halt abruptly causing the birds on trees and around the fields to fly away in a hurry. The car door was forced open and a tiny foot on a silver stiletto appeared on the uneven ground. Immediately, the door slammed so hard that it threatened to tear at the hinges.
Martha Hershberger stomped out of the driver’s seat in a swirl of wedding tulle, organza and white silk. Her feet made muffled sounds on the thick dusty terrain. Her flaming red hair and her burning face were a striking contrast to her 5 feet stature. She stamped her stiletto with a thud and screamed expletives at the boy who just got out of the car.
“Aaaarrrrrrrgh…...” she screamed shaking a fist at the boy, “you asshole!”
Zach Henderson quietly followed her to the side of the dusty road all the while watching her every move warily. He firmly took his stand in front of her. Martha’s blood boiled as she looked into the blue eyes of Zach and in a fit of rage……..SLAP!
“Ouch!” Zach roared rubbing his cheek whilst checking for any cut on his lip. Martha’s little but she’s a country girl, he thought with disgust, she is strong.
“Zach Henderson! Have you been out of your mind? What was the point you wanted to make when you objected to my wedding? I told you to leave me alone! But no! Zach Henderson, the cool dude, will not listen to little Martha bitch! Right?”
She bellowed at the top of her lungs.
“Will you shut up?” he asked her softly, “you don’t want to go to jail in an unknown county, Martha.”
His face turned a delicate shade of purple but he clamped his mouth shut not wanting to infuriate his wife anymore than she was.
“Oh shut up! You should have kept your mouth shut back then. If you had, I wouldn’t be standing in an alien county, two states away from my hometown with a complete stranger without no money, no contacts and no qualifications to get a job!”
She flailed her hands passionately and burst out laughing in hysterics.
He shook his head slightly and turned away from her. He needed to get away; he needed time to think about his life; just his life, without the red haired cutie-pie before him. He just cannot handle her. She has always been this stubborn. He had to pursue her for more than a month before she decided it’s time to say hello. He walked away from her in an unhurried pace.
“Zach! What are you doing? You can’t leave me in the middle of nowhere,” she yelled in panic, “Zach! C’mon….Zach!”
She waved her arms and did everything to get his attention but he wasn’t interested. Within minutes, he was just a speck in the distance and after a few more minutes, he was gone. After a few heartbeats, Martha realized she was all alone and it was getting dark quickly. But she didn’t want to go after Zach. He must come to her. He owed her an explanation. He owed her a family, a stable life and an apology- for coming into her life three months ago and turning it upside down.
Martha slowly made her way to the entrance of the village bar, The Mitchellville Crazies. She glanced over the huge neon sign over the brick-red building and bit her lip. She had never been to a village bar and more so, this wasn’t her safe protective community. This was out there as her mother called it. She saw a couple of huge men exit the place and felt numb to the core. She wouldn’t want to go inside if Zach hadn’t come back even after a few hours. She waited inside the car for a long time hoping he would come to his senses and return but to no such luck. Finally, she stepped out into the darkness and stumbled towards the main part of the village. She thought she’d be kidnapped or worse, raped by some unknown drunkards running amok in the farms but she didn’t come across any human being until she stepped into the brightly lit village square. The door of the bar opened a second time and some young men disappeared inside. Her instinct told her that that’s where she needs to go if she were to find Zach. He loves community. He loves people unlike her who needs just a television set to live out her entire life. Feeling slightly scared, she crossed the streets in a few strides and shoved herself into the crowded hallway before she could balk at the task.
Abby noticed that today was unusually busy. Yet she didn’t complain because more foot-falls meant more money for her.
“Abby, I’ll have the usual!” A kind voice boomed pulling her out of her reverie.
“Sheriff Smith! Y’alright? Wife kicked you out on a Saturday night?” She teased the septuagenarian batting her eyelashes hard.
“Kinshaw, your place or my place?” He leaned in and kissed her cheek fondly.
“Your place if Hilda doesn’t mind. Heard she’s getting deafer by the day,” she replied, joy dancing in her green eyes. He thumped her shoulder playfully. Finished with the drink, she placed it on the counter with a bang.
Just then she noticed an unfamiliar face enter the den with eyes wide like saucers. The girl had flaming red hair and was tiny; she wore a striped tee and a short ruffled skirt. She seemed to be searching for someone and appeared lost. She raised her hand and beckoned the girl to the counter. The girl didn’t notice her or chose not to notice. The girl now settled for staring at the boy who had been chatting up the Sheriff from the past few hours.
After a few minutes of gawking, she resolutely walked up to the counter and plonked herself down on the barstool in front of Abby. Sheriff Smith stopped talking having caught sight of the fiery porcelain skinned beauty who just sat beside him.
Zach caught sight of her and quickly excused himself. He made his way to the snooker table at the far corner of the huge foot-ball field sized den. Martha banged her fist on the counter in fury. Her face had turned a really beautiful blush shade. Suddenly, she was overwhelmed by tears. The old man beside gazed at Martha with a troubled countenance. He began to open his mouth when Abby fastened her hand on his shoulder. She made an infinitesimal eye motion towards Zach and back at Martha. The chief didn’t get it at first. Abby had to roll her eyes in frustration until the elderly sheriff understood the matter at hand. He promptly got up, adjusted his belt and stalked towards Zach whose white hands gripped the table tighter than necessary.
Abby tossed up a beer bottle and followed its course with a questioning look before snatching it up before it hit the counter. She set the bottle down pointedly, “So what’s the deal with you and him?”
Martha carefully took the bottle with her left hand curling her fingers exaggeratedly around the spout. Abby’s eyes wandered to her hand and a sly grin broke on her smooth visage.
“High school sweethearts?”
“Not even close,” Martha laughed wiping the tears off her face, “I’d like to believe it was destiny. I met him just three months ago. He barged into my life and wasn’t persistent enough at first. But then, I ended up getting married to him.”
“I call such couples star-kissed,” Abby nodded solemnly, “they live all their life in conformity before that one person comes along and washes you into the sea of dreams.”
Martha pushed away her beer before answering the question behind Abby’s statement. “That jackass wrecked my wedding. He didn’t give me a reason why… yet. Do you know how we first met?” Her eyes lit up excitedly. Abby waved her hand encouragingly.
Martha spun her head and glanced at Zach’s handsome rear. Zach jerked around impulsively only to catch Martha’s blushing face.
“You should stop peeking at her every five seconds if you don’t want to acknowledge her.”
The sheriff had been seated comfortably in the armchair until then. He ventured near Zach just as Martha’s and Zach’s eyes met. Zach shrugged uninterestedly.
“Don’t you act in front of me! I’ve observed you from the moment she came inside the den. You wouldn’t stop taking a few glimpses of her every few seconds like I said. Are you in love?"
The chief’s question made Zach queasy. He didn’t expect what to say to such a direct query.
“We met when the poor guy fell under my horse in broad daylight. You know his apology? He said he didn’t see the horse coming. Would any sane person believe that? By the way, I’m from Allen County, Indiana”
“Nice to meet you……?”
“Martha Hershberger and I don’t mind if you drop my surname. I was kicked out a few hours back,” Martha replied dryly.
“What happened?” Abby choked on her water.
“What happened?” She steadied herself clumsily and batted her long eyelashes at Martha with eagerness.
Martha just laughed clutching her stomach tightly. Her innards began squirming. She hadn’t gotten over that reality yet and here she was, so far away from home recounting her story to a stranger all in the hopes of winning her boyfriend aka husband back.
Zach sleepily settled in the chair across to the chief’s.
“Why are you ignoring your cute girlfriend? At your age, I had my hands full with half a dozen girls, but none were even close to what you got there,” asked the chief pointing at Martha. “What are you…17?”
“Incidentally, I’m 19. We both are.”
The chief just examined Zach’s face calmly.
“Wife,” he replied dully, “I was married to her exactly 8 hours ago and she is sapping the life out of me already.”
Zach felt his fist sized heart weigh down with enormity of his situation. He rubbed the exhaustion off his eyes for a good five minutes before he spoke again.
“Summer romance…that’s what it is. I saw her and immediately felt connected. So I pursued her and undoubtedly as you’ve seen just now, all she did was throw furtive glances at me. She didn’t say hello until after a good month had passed. And then one fine day, I got an invitation to her wedding. I was supposed to leave the place that day. But something told me to go to her wedding. By the way, I went to her town for summer vacation. Initially, I was keen on leaving within two days but I set myself there until I had tried every possible trick in the book trying to get her to talk to me. Well, eventually she did; only to say we aren’t possible. Her dad wouldn’t approve.”
Meanwhile Martha told the same story to Abby over the constant din of the people around.
“So, he came to your wedding I guess?”
She smiled widely showing a gaping hole in her upper row of teeth. Martha nodded enthusiastically though her eyes formed transparent tears around the corners.
“He spoke up among every single person I know objecting to my wedding with another man. Chaos ensued. I’ve been whisked away and secretly married to Zach who didn’t speak a word during the entire proceedings,” Martha smiled sadly letting her tears find the smooth planes of her cheek.
“He hurt you unwittingly.” Abby reached out and wiped her tears away. “Aren’t you happy with the wedding?”
Martha felt her eye-lids slowly closing in. Just then, a girl slipped into the counter and whispered something into Abby’s ears. Abby’s face glowed with the dawn of a smile. The girl quickly darted away to whisper something in a man’s ear at the other side of the counter. He grinned crookedly and patted the girl away. She made a gentle tutting noise and found another person to whom she shared her secret news with. Martha couldn't tell if it was even real or she was seeing things.
Abby wandered off from her and Martha didn’t think any ill of her. She just cupped her face in her hands leaned onto the counter and dozed off into a dreamland.
In her dream, she was running in the fields egging Zach on while he chased after her playfully. Just as she thought that she lost him, he caught up with her and whirled her around in the golden brightness of the sun, the corn crop and the sand. They both fell onto the ground and rolled down the soft slope before they sprawled on among the tallest of grass. He rolled off her and came back for one sweet kiss. His face was inches away from hers. Her heart beat shot up and she took shallow puffs of air. His lips came so close to hers. Any second now…
“Martha! I’m so sorry I started our love story on such a wrong note.”
A hand poked her awake and she jerked her head up to find the den completely transformed.
She gazed around groggily before focusing on Zach who was standing on a make-shift stage. She felt something wet on her cheeks and chin. She reached up and flicked them away appraising her surroundings simultaneously. She found that the den was decorated with streamers and a local band took up some space behind Zach on the stage. She saw the sheriff wink at her while Abby was excitedly bobbing up and down beside him.
She heard the husky voice of Zach dimly while she rubbed her eyes in astonishment.
“I never had the chance to ask you to our first dance. So, may I have the pleasure?”
He got down just as the guitar sounded its first twang. He strode up to her confidently and took her hand without even asking for her permission. He had always been like that; she thought her heart fluttering a thousand times per second. Her heart was poised to burst from the joy she experienced when he held her in his arms. His mere touch made her tremble with pleasure. She fell in step easily without caring about the song playing in the background. She twirled and whirled and curled into him and away from him with an ease with which a feather flies and falls in a light breeze.
The lights were dimmed and the spotlight shone on them just at the start of a slow melody. Other couples joined them on the floor while a few others cheered from the sidelines. They hugged each other and revolved slowly around the spot.
“I love you,” he whispered with ardor.
“I love you too,” her heart stuttered as she uttered the words. She closed her eyes enjoying every sensory feeling of the moment.
“What?” Zach's voice pierced her ears so loudly.
She faintly heard the heavy breathing of Zach, the steady rise and fall of his buff chest and she felt his chest muscles working overtime to her side. She took in a deep breath and caught a pungent smell. She coughed loudly and fidgeted around. Suddenly, she felt a sudden change in posture and moments later she had been dumped in the middle of the road unceremoniously.
“What? Where are the streamers and spotlights?”
She sat up with a jolt. It was nearly dawn and everything was a pretty grey against the dry yellow of the environment.
“No idea what you are saying,” he squinted at her sympathetically like a man who’s in charge of a mad woman.
Blood rushed to her face as she realized the truth. She smacked herself on the forehead and sprang up. He scowled at her and said something about her sleeping at the counter all night.
“Yeah, alright, so how far did you have to carry me? Are you really that buff?”
She peered at his face trying to mask her embarrassment. He raised his eyebrows at her with a warning look. She poked him lightly at first and in a flash, punched his shoulder. He raised his arm just as she whizzed sideways. Being tiny, she was able to lose him easily while he huffed far behind her.
“Zach, honey! It’s time you get some lean muscle,” she wriggled her fingers and whooped loudly.
She pirouetted around sticking her tongue out. Instantly, he caught her free arm and pulled her close. She tried to shake him away feeling increasingly weak and trapped.
“Leave me Zach,” she pushed against him eyeing him angrily.
Their faces were so close she could actually make out each individual hair in his eyelashes. A cold chill erupted inside of her.
“Ok, I will, on a condition. Let’s race to the truck. The winner gets to boss over the loser for the rest of their lives. Deal?”
His lips curled in a sly smile. She pulled away from him shocked. He didn’t let go of her yet; his strong arm was still around her waist. She sized him up apprehensively.
“Sure, your deal, your loss,” she motioned her approval with a slight rise of her shoulders. “Alright, one, two, three…Go!”
With a swift motion he twisted her around so that she lost her balance and he was off on the sandy topography.
“Uh…you moron!” she screeched and ran after him similar to the pursuit of a cheetah after a deer.
“You are so going to regret this Henderson!”
Her hair whooshed in the breeze and sweat crystallized out on her flushed complexion. She came very near to overtake him and turned to tease him about it. Her breath stopped short when she looked at his expression: focused eyes, a slight frown twisted his eyebrows, his muscles held tight, legs which left the ground in fractions of seconds after touchdown. He wasn’t a deer, he was a stag: powerful, beautiful, funny, cocky, strong, smart. Her feet abruptly dragged her back as she watched him spring effortlessly onto the back of the truck. She was in love with him. Her mind snapped by the sheer significance of her epiphany.
Zach uttered a cry of triumph and beckoned her to come. She reached the truck in an unhurried pace and faced him with her hands on her hips. Her chest was still heaving with the sweet realization of feelings she locked away in her heart for a fairly long time.
Zach took in her aspect and stretched his hands down signaling her to come up. She sluggishly took his arm and allowed him to pull her up. The feelings which have been knocking at the oak wood door that was her heart went too far today. She succumbed to her emotions just as the door had been broken open just when the pink orange sky gave way to the sun in the horizon.
Zach’s ears had been taking in every small sound about her and every change in her stance. She let out a small gasp when her emotions overwhelmed her. She shivered under his gaze and tried to hide her face away from him. He remembered the sheriff’s words of last night – “you wouldn’t have jeopardized a girl’s special day if something deep hasn’t occurred between you two.”
He hauled her up to her toes and closed his lips on her already parted lips just as she closed her eyes. A single tear streaked down her cheek as his hands cupped her face. She whimpered and gasped in ecstasy. His hands slid down to her throat and then around her waist. She shuddered blithely putting her arms around his neck and melting into his love. The sun rose up in the east basking the two star-kissed lovers in a rainbow glow. They realized that it wasn’t easy being star-kissed but the passion and the ecstasy of it more than makes up for it. Their shadows on the golden yellow earth intertwined and became as one just as the two young and innocent souls pledged their hearts to each other.