Maddie sat at the old piano, the warm sunshine on her back, a slow buzzing fly drifting around her head. The drone of her husband's voice from the pulpit seemed further and further away as she tried valiantly to keep her eyes open. Hard as she tried, she couldn't quite keep them from dragging shut, the cool darkness feeling good against her tired grainy eyeballs. The festive Easter hat on her honey blonde curls dipped lower and lower, the bluebird on the front brim threatening to take a walk on the weathered piano ledge that held the sheet music to Rock of Ages.
Out of the corner of his eye, the Reverend Heathcliff Danvers kept watch as the bright head sunk lower and lower towards the piano keys. Inside, he was very aggravated at Maddie for ignoring him once again. He had tried to warn her, but she wouldn't listen and now here she was, embarrassing him as the congregation tittered and twittered at the sight of his wife about to fall off her bench.
"Wives, obey your husbands, for this is right in the sight of the Lord," his soft mellow tones entreated the women while the men watched in amusement. He saw his friend Sam Decker, of Decker's mercantile winking up at him and a dull flush crept up his throat and spread across his face.
It was only yesterday that he and Maddie had been in the mercantile, and he had been chatting with Sam about this very subject!
"I don't know why Maddie feels like she has to do everything herself," said Heath, his eyes narrowing as his wife rushed around the small store, purchasing thread and material and all the makings for Easter hats for the little girls in her Sunday school class.
"She has already planned the entire Easter festivities for tomorrow afternoon; the games, the meal, the egg hunt, and now she wants to make hats for the girls! I don't really want her to, but she won't listen to me!"
"Well, you two haven't been married very long, Heath," replied Sam, his eyes twinkling. "Less than a year, right?"
"Just under a year," agreed Heath. He scratched his head and looked at Sam, wanting to talk man to the man, yet not wanting to be disloyal to his darling wife. Truth was, though, Maddie was becoming more and more obstinate and demanding, and he wasn't quite sure how to handle it.
Sam, on the other hand, was pretty sure the young Reverend was feeling overwhelmed. Everyone knew Madeline Marie Owens was headstrong. When she had fallen for a gentle soft-spoken preacher man the entire town had gossiped its collective tongue out.
However, as the months had gone by, and Maddie's slim figure did not fill out, they reckoned how it must be true love after all, especially seeing as how she wasn't coming with child a mite early. Of course, they would have overlooked that, being that everybody loved Maddie, and she was getting married to one of the finest young men in the territory.
Taking pity on the young fellow, Sam decided to impart some of his vast worldly knowledge to Heathcliff Danvers. Biting on a piece of broom straw, he let it hang out of the side of his mouth as he spoke.
"A young filly like your Maddie needs a firm hand, Heath," he warned. "If you don't rein her in while she is young, she will be too much to handle as she gets older, even for the strongest man."
Heath stared doubtfully at Sam, his handsome brow wreathed in a scowl. His masculine brown eyes were clouded with worry, and he smoothed down his shiny mustache as he pondered Sam's words. "Just what are you getting at, Sam?" he asked finally.
Just then, Maddie came rushing up, her deep blue eyes the color of sapphires glowing with excitement. "Look, Heath, isn't this beautiful? This would look so wonderful on the piano at the church with a nice arrangement of prairie flowers scattered across the top of it for Easter. I'm going to buy a yard of it and make the cloth tonight!"
"But, Maddie, when will you have time to make it?" protested Heath, hating to spoil her excitement, but knowing it would mean a very late night for her ... again! She had already been up late the past two nights, leaving him alone in bed, and yearning for her, while she made all sorts of preparations for the Easter weekend events.
Maddie waved his protests aside. "Oh, don't worry, Heath, I'll get it done!" She turned away, but Heath grabbed her elbow and turned her back. He was aware of Sam's wolfish grin out of the corner of his eye.
"I don't want you to do it, Maddie. Put the material back. You've been up late enough lately, and you need your rest, tonight." He tried to sound authoritative, but he knew he had failed when she responded by turning her back on him.
"Now, don't worry, darling, it won't take that long to make this." She hurried over to Angelina to discuss her ideas with her and have her mark the material for Sam to cut.
"Now, see here, Maddie," began Heath, reaching for her again, but she had evaded him, and he dropped his arm with a sigh.
Exasperated, Heath turned to him. "What do you mean reign her in, Sam? What exactly are you talking about? I just told her no, and she did it anyway."
Lowering his voice, Sam confided, "I mean when she disobeys you, take a firm hand to her backside."