"Impossible! It is simply unfeasible sir, I cannot believe this!"
"Pray you listen to me Reverend Murry, let me speak my mind and you listen with a closed mouth!"
The Reverend sighed and shook his head. Edward Murry was never a man to be silenced. His eyes were narrowed into frustrated slits, but because he was walking alongside his friend from childhood, he forced himself to listen to the younger man beside him who had bright chestnut hair, dark brown eyes that at first glance one would have mistaken them dark as night.
"I can assure you sir," The other continued, "it is as though my heart has been opened again and I feel—reborn!"
Edward scoffed and adjusted his cloak. "Foolish thoughts Samuel, I cannot understand these impure thoughts!" Puffs of cold air escaped his lips as he spoke, and the Puritan could finally see winter approaching.
How still Bergston was in late autumn, the warm reds and oranges of the leaves would dull and gently dance through the crisp air before lying on the paths of the small Massachusetts village.
Men and women also changed according to the incoming frost, men had traded their summer black clothing for thick garments, a heavy cloak over their shoulders and a large hat to shield them from rain and snow. Women had their hair, of course under a bonnet, tied into either a neat bun or a long braid and they too exchanged their summer's wear for thicker and longer dresses to keep them as warm as possible.
Samuel stiffened at Edward's cold response. "I know it is impure to think of another woman when I am wed Edward, but have you seen her?!"
"No you fool! Her! The woman who has stolen my heart!"
Edward shook his head. "I pray you Mister Barks; do not think about women when you are so happily wed! I simply cannot fathom it!" He continued to walk beside Samuel, his light eyes away from the early setting sun.
"Reverend," Samuel warned, "when I say that such a woman is making me dream of her rather than my lady instead it is true! Believe me good sir if I am able to find her, I shall point her out for you and then you shall see what beauty truly is!"
How Samuel loves to bicker and protest… Edward inwardly thought as they both sat down, their cloaks swaying along to the light wind and their hands keeping their hats in place from lifting into the air and soaring to the distant mountains that now darkened with the absence of the sunlight.
"Besides," Samuel added with a tinge of frustrated venom in his voice, "how can you understand the feelings of affection? You yourself are not wed, nor shall you be under the order of your father who, might I remind you, was the very one that refused your pleas to marry!"
Edward furrowed his brows at the mention of his father, Lord bless his sickly soul, and shook his head. "Young sir, my father was ailing and if he did not wish me to wed then so it must be! It is simply how it is and I shall not go against my father's words!"
"Sir you are surely lying to yourself!" Samuel protested, playfully ripping Edward's hat from his grasp. "Your father is now with the Lord and cannot force you to live a life of solitude!"
"Solitude?!" Edward demanded and grabbed the hat back, placing it neatly on his head. "Samuel for one, I am not in solitude for I have the Lord and second, I have no interest in marriage now. Besides, there are no women whose beauty has struck me down."
Samuel chuckled and stood. "Until you lay eyes upon her Reverend, see her and then your words shall change." He looked down on his friend. "I cannot change your mind and surely the town agrees with me on that, but you are loveless good sir, loving only the Lord shall not quench your thirst for true affection!"
Edward merely rolled his eyes and looked up at the darkening sky, now tinted with pale orange streaks of the setting sun. "I shall not marry Samuel, and you know I cannot even if I wished I could. The older residents desire to keep me an unwed man because my father was loved in Bergston...you know that, do you not?"
"I do," Samuel admitted, "but what does that matter?"
"Samuel, if I one day decide to marry a woman and they find out…they shall be horrified!" Edward exclaimed and quickly silenced himself when a few villagers glanced at them. "They believed my father to be a good man, and they wish me to do whatever he has requested on his deathbed."
The younger man sighed and looked away. "They know you are a good man Reverend and that you do your best to remain loyal to your father's words, but they simply cannot force you to stay unwed!"
Edward said nothing and stared across the barren field beyond Bergston. A few feet from it was a vast forest consisting of pine trees that, even in the harsh winters, were somehow still able to keep their ivy green pines. The lively forest was considered to be a visible contrast to the Puritan village in winter, in which all the townsfolk seemed to act like the desolate pasture that separated Bergston and the forest itself. Not one day passed with excitement but it was not a critical change as it never had been so even in the sun-drenched summer; however in winter, time slowed so much that a day would seem as if a year had passed.
Edward's eyes snapped back down from the forest to the ground when he heard the sharp, but hushed warning from Samuel. He adjusted his cloak and stared at the other Puritan, who was staring at something with such intensity; it would be as if he became a hunter watching his prey. "I pray good sir, what troubles you?"
The younger man did not answer and instead grabbed his friend's arm, hushing him and whispering, "I had said that if I saw her I shall point her out, and there she is!" He nodded his head in the direction of the church where a group of women stood, talking and whispering.
At first, Edward was incredulous to believe Samuel's words. He knew all of these women from before, and honestly, none of them captured his eyes. All of them had the same bleak eyes, the same mannerisms and the same thoughts, traits that bothered him greatly. If a woman should steal his heart, she would have the restraint of a well-bred lady, but with a thirst for wonder as he too had when staring at the moon and stars, thinking about what made them so.
"You see?" Samuel whispered again, realizing that Edward had finally seen her, "The woman in the brown dress, she has darker skin and black hair." He glanced at the Reverend and smirked. "Did I not tell you she is lovely?"
Edward watched her closely, and a spark of interest captured him when he noticed a book, hidden under her white apron; something he had never seen one woman carry around in Bergston. But the matter of the book did not capture him as much as the way Samuel described her, simply darker skin and black hair? This vision had hair dark as night, braided neatly down to her waist and skin that almost seemed too exotic to even glance at. At a closer look, she had deep but vibrant moss colored eyes that nearly showed a sharp intelligence, and they were staring right at him.
When Samuel witnessed the young woman looking at them, he quickly tapped Edward's shoulder and forced him to stand. "Come now Reverend…" As the two walked away, he could hear the faint whispers from the women in the group and smiled, "How is it that you sir, Edward Murry, can possibly be one of the most sought out men in Bergston?"
As much as Edward detested being complimented, a tinge of narcissistic pride washed over him. Though a Reverend and known for being unwed, he was a striking figure in the village. Gaunt, but handsome, with dark grizzled hair and remarkable blue eyes, Edward was usually the man women spoke and tittered about, and now it seemed that this young woman had also became interested.
"And," Samuel whispered, a hint of triumph in his voice, "did I not tell you she was lovely?"
"What is her name?" The older Puritan asked, glancing at his friend curiously. "How did she come to be in Bergston?" As they walked to their respective cottages, Edward closed his eyes momentarily to vision the captivating green eyes.
Samuel bit his lip and looked up in thought. "My information may be incorrect sir, but I hear her name is Goodwife DePorres--"
"I pray you spare me her family name and give me her name itself!" Edward demanded, his hands gripping on the bible tightly as a feeling of guilt was taking over him.
Samuel paused as he was interrupted, but then continued as if nothing had happened. "Goody Lucia, as that is her first name, a settler from a region named Normandy." He shrugged, but grinned mischievously. "Goody Lucia is known for being a seducer there…"
Edward nearly dropped his bible in shock. "A—A whore good sir?!"
"No!" Samuel exclaimed and shook his head quickly. "I have not said it so to be true; it is merely what I heard from the goodwives of Bergston."
The Reverend rolled his eyes. "Mister Parris, it is not difficult to spy envy in the women. They are simply bothered by her beauty that is all. But I shan't believe that Goody Lucia is a whore purely on the rumors of spiteful women."
Samuel raised an eyebrow and nudged his friend. "Then you agree that she is lovely!" However, he was not able to get an answer from the Reverend and sighed. "Fare thee well Reverend, for the night appears." Quickly giving Edward a respectful nod, he turned on a separate path to his home, leaving the other in his thoughts.
Edward walked slowly that night. He continued to shut his eyes and vision the woman he had seen. Quite different indeed, a woman from a French land, and with a book! He shook his head and looked down at the bible. Was he this foolish to believe that with one look at a lady, his heart could be captured in an instant?
"Foolish…I am a foolish man." He scolded himself angrily and pressed the book firmly to his chest. And yet, he could not stop thinking about the woman with midnight hair and coffee skin.