She walked self-consciously across the pine straw, a blueberry pie carried in front of her like an offering to the gods. She placed it on the table among the other cakes and pies, and breathed a sigh of relief.
Walking with her head down, she nearly collided with a young man, who stood in front of her like one of the tall pines that ringed the church picnic grounds. He reached out a hand to steady her. His calloused palm was warm on the bare arm beneath the cap sleeve of her Sunday dress.
“Hey,” the young man exclaimed in surprise, “aren’t you Caroline Brown?”
The young woman looked up. “Yes, I am,” she replied. She had never seen him at church before. Randy Jones cut timber and worked in his Daddy’s sawmill along the St. John’s River. He was just a boy of 17 doing a man’s job, but everyone was working these days. The Depression had found its way deep into the North Florida piney woods.
Randy grinned down at Caroline. “Are you eatin’ supper with anyone, Miss Caroline?”
She blushed to the roots of her auburn hair. “Just my family,” she whispered.
“Well I aim to eat supper with the prettiest girl in town.”
“Oh,” she replied, then was startled to realize he was still grinning down at her. He meant her!
The two strolled side by side to the plank tables, filled with good food. They ate supper on an old quilt surrounded by Caroline’s family. Her brothers joked and teased, but Randy was a good sport. He talked about farming and the timber business with her father, and answered her mother’s questions about his kinfolk with polite patience.
Caro sat quietly and munched on a chicken leg, watching and listening to Randy converse with her parents. She liked his brown skin, tanned from the long days outdoors. His blue eyes sparkled when he talked about the sawmill and helping to provide timber to ship overseas for the war effort.
Soon Caro and Randy walked over to the dessert table. Randy wanted to know which pie Caroline had baked. Shyly she pointed to the blueberry pie, and Randy cut a huge slice for himself. He stood and dug his fork in for bite before they moved back to the quilt with the others.
Chewing slowly, he threw back his head, closed his eyes and nodded. Then looking her right in the eyes, he declared, “Caroline Brown, that is the best blueberry pie in the entire state of Florida, and I am going to marry you someday!”
Caro stood with her mouth gaping, staring up at this confident young man, filled with surprise. But, deep in her heart, she knew he would get what he wanted.