A Husband For Mary...
Rick Johnson turned to her. "And do you, Mary Peters, take Dave Larson to be your lawfully wedded husband from this day forward, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, forsaking all others, as long as you both shall live?"
"I do," she said.
The judge asked for the ring.
Dave glanced at her sheepishly. "I knew I forgot to buy something."
Rick shook his head. "You'll have to forgive him," he told her. "Dave has a tendency to forget things."
"It's true. I forgot to mention that fact about myself."
She shyly smiled. "It's lucky for you that I have an excellent memory."
"This is why I chose her," he told Rick. "Can we still get married even though we don't have a ring?"
"Here, Dave." Danny handed him a piece of string that was tied in a circle large enough to slip on a finger. "My daughter handed me this today. It's a ring she made for herself that she wanted to give me. You can widen it so it can fit her finger. It'll do until you buy a real one."
"It's perfect," she assured him, touched.
Dave slid the pink string on her finger and warmly pressed his lips to hers for a simple kiss. No man kissed her before. Her stomach fluttered and her lips tingled from the action. She reminded herself that this was not a love relationship.
Mary Peters reread the ad in the newspaper. Ads asking for a wife were fairly common, but this particular ad caught her eye for a variety of reasons. One, the man who wrote it seemed straightforward, a quality she admired because she didn't trust people who uttered flowery language which could be deceptive. Two, the man was realistic about his expectations. A farmer would benefit most from a woman who could handle the harsher elements of living on a farm. Three, the part boldly stating he expected her to bear him children told her that this was not a man who minced words. He knew exactly what he wanted and sought it. Such a man might not be overly concerned with how a woman looked.
She glanced at her reflection in the store window. She often passed the dress shop on her way to the restaurant where she helped Mrs. Jones cook meals for her hungry patrons. Her plain face with an unusually big nose that made her eyes and thin lips look smaller than they actually were didn't draw any interest from men. Her pale smooth skin would have been her best feature had it not been for the freckles that dotted her cheeks and nose. Her frizzy mousy brown long hair that she unsuccessfully tried to tame with her brush was mercifully forced under a bonnet.
Plain Mary Peters. She heard the term used often enough by her family and friends. Certain that they meant no harm in the adjective used to describe her, she didn't take offense to it. Besides, she was plain. Considering that they could call her ugly, plain was actually a kind word.
Biting her lower lip, she turned her attention back to the ad. Unlike other men requesting women who were pretty, this one simply required hard work, dependability and willingness to bear him children. She wasn't afraid of any of those things. Pretty, she couldn't give him, but the others she easily could. Though she never spent a single day on a farm, she was willing to learn what she needed to do to help him. Her mother had borne her father twelve children, so she was sure that she wouldn't have any problems with getting in the family way.
I'll send him a letter, and if he wishes to marry me, I'll go to him. Fear of the unknown did not hold her back. She welcomed the adventure of leaving her old world behind for a new one. A fresh start might even be a welcome relief after living in her sisters' shadows all of her life. Her sisters were beautiful. They found husbands well before they turned eighteen. She recalled the wedding of her closest sister who was only two years her senior:
Grace had just turned sixteen, and she was thrilled to marry her childhood sweetheart. Before the wedding, Mary decorated Grace's silky brown hair with pink rose petals. Her sister wore a long flowing white gown trimmed with lace, which was a labor of love that Mary spent the past two months creating. Mary wanted her favorite sister to look her best during the ceremony, for it was a day Grace had eagerly planned with her from the moment Calvin proposed.
While their other sisters decorated the church, they had the moment to themselves in the small church room to the side of the sanctuary.
"You are beautiful," Mary smiled as she glanced at her older sister.
"I feel beautiful," she confessed as she looked at her reflection in the mirror. "That's what love does to a woman, Mary. When Calvin looks at me, it's as if I can see myself through his eyes, and I know when he sees me, he sees the most beautiful woman he ever laid eyes on."
That's because you are pleasing to gaze upon. Grace wasn't plain. She didn't have to deal with the snickers from the young men when they thought she was out of hearing range. Men practically worshipped the ground Grace walked on.
"Someday, you'll know what I'm talking about," Grace told her. She reached out and took Mary's hand just as Mary was ready to put another petal in her hair. "Love is the most wonderful feeling in the world. Your time will come."
Mary smiled, gently pulled her hand away and returned to her work. She knew better than to hope to be beautiful in the eyes of a man. She caught sight of the contrast between her and her sister and the difference was like looking at night and day. If she married at all, it would be a miracle.