Part 25: Summer Daydream
The ride back to the store was just as lazy as drifting down the peaceful river. Everyone was tired from being out in the sun and all the adventure of the rapids. We looked to be the only ones who fell in though, and all the kids wanted to hear about it. This time, I was allowed to ride in the back of the truck with Summer. Apparently one of the kid’s parents had been at the pick-up spot to get him, giving us more room. Danny seemed glad to be rid of me anyway. He didn’t look too pleased that we had shown up late after the rest of the group. When he saw our disheveled state, he knew we had taken a dunk. He just shook his head as if to say, ‘I told you so.’ Summer laid her head over on my shoulder and nearly fell asleep as we went down the bumpy dirt road. When we got to the store, I nudged her a little, and she raised her head with a smile saying, “Oh hi daddy,” with a mischievous grin. Several of the boys in the back with us, looked at each other, raising eyebrows, which caused Summer to break into a laugh. As we got out of the truck, she said goodbye to some of the girls, and I walked up to the cab to thank Danny.
“Hey thanks,” I said, “That was lots of fun. Wasn’t what I expected, but that’s what makes it exciting.”
He smiled and held his hand out. “You be sure and tell your friends. As we hit our summer stride, we’ll be making more trips and we have some overnight tube adventures planned, too.”
I shook his hand and wondered why he was being courteous and nice, until I looked behind and noticed Summer was there. She squeezed by me to thank the guy, too.
He grinned a little bit wider shaking her hand. “We had fun,” she said. “Too bad you missed our rapid ride.”
“I would have come little miss, but from the looks of you, it does look like it was fun.” He then pressed something into her hand. It looked like a piece of paper. “If you want to have fun again, just give me a call and we’ll make time to come get you.”
She looked at the paper. It had his phone number written on it. I gave him a look that said, ‘man, you got nerve,’ and he put on his best smile for her. I imagined it made the local college girls melt, but looking over at Summer, she seemed unaffected. “Will do,” she told him in a gracious manner, shoving the number into her jeans pocket. “Come, sugar daddy,” she said to me with a wink, and led me away from the truck and into the store. I felt his eyes on us the whole way and was glad that was the last time he would stare at Summer’s backside.
We bought a couple of sodas in the store. Helen was still there, though Raymond had gone out in the fields to see how his workers were doing. Twyla was at her booth in the back, and when she saw us she waved and offered us some of her prize lemonade on the house. We accepted her offer and gulped it down as if we hadn’t had anything to drink all day. After being out in the sun and on the river, it was like liquid heaven. Twyla reached up and held Summer’s hand like most little girls do when there’s an older one around to look up to. Summer smiled at her and told her she made the best lemonade she ever tasted.
While Summer and Twyla bonded like long lost sisters, I picked up a few things from the store’s frozen case. They had some packaged hamburger, so I grabbed a roll of it and got some buns, fresh lettuce, and tomatoes to fix us up some dinner later. I remembered seeing a gas grill on the back porch of Orchard House, so as long as it worked, we could have a little cookout for two. .
With grocery bags and sodas in hand, we walked through the orchard back up to the house. We didn’t hold hands this time, but if I’d had a free hand I would have asked her if I could.
“My, what a day. I’m going to need a bath to wash this river off of me,” Summer said.
“Yeah, I know. Don’t use all the hot water,” I teased. “I’ll need one, too.”
“I might save you a little,” she laughed. “What’s in the bags?”
She had been busy with Twyla in the store, and so hadn’t seen my loot. “Well I had ten dollars left from our tubing adventure, so I thought we’d try and cook out. “
She clapped her hands. “Great! I haven’t cooked out in ages. Today is becoming a day of firsts and long time since I have done that moments.”
I smiled and nodded. “Yes it has.”
As we neared the house, Jackson came out to meet us, wagging his tail and drooling all over us. Summer patted him on the head and he sat on his haunches at her feet. “I’m going to miss you, Jacks,” she said. Then she looked at me as if she might same the very same thing, but she looked away before the words could come out. I knew she didn’t want to think about it, and neither did I. The subject would have to be broached soon enough, just not now.
Inside the house, I put up the groceries while she disappeared into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. I heard her turn on the bath water, and for a moment imagined her shedding her clothes for the tub. Embarrassed, I shook this thought out of my head and left the kitchen for the hallway and my room. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I wondered how I was going to handle this, how I was going to sit here this time tomorrow with a great big hole in my soul. Part of me was thinking this was going to be just like the emptiness Ashley caused when she decided she couldn’t pretend any more. Forget Ashley, I berated myself. This is nothing like that. Ashley left because she felt nothing at all for you. Summer is leaving because..because..well, you don’t know why, but it’s not because she doesn’t want to be with you. Or perhaps it is. Perhaps Summer just had to keep moving. Maybe staying still wasn’t the life for her either.
I picked up the cellphone from the desk. No calls or voicemails. I really should call Eric, I thought. At least tell him where I was. Yes I should, but not tonight. Tomorrow maybe. Tonight I was going to enjoy the time I had left with Summer. Who knows what tomorrow would even bring? Maybe she wouldn’t go. Maybe I could talk her into staying. Maybe…life is a bunch of maybes, and every one up to this point had turned into nevers. It was best I didn’t think about it. I closed my eyes, not trying to dwell on anything, just trying to relax, and she came into my room. Not really; it was all in my head, but I could see her coming in, lean body wrapped in her towel, her hair in a bun on her head, also wrapped up in a towel. She would say my name, and then she would fall into my arms, kisses cascading down on me like rain. She would take me into her towel, her still wet skin soft and warm against me…
I came out of my reverie in record time. Ashamed and embarrassed over my thoughts, I turned red as a sheet, wanting to apologize to her for thinking such thoughts, but then I stopped. She was wrapped in a towel, bath water still dripping on the floor as she stood in the bedroom doorway. Her dark hair was wrapped up in another towel and I thought how close this was to my daydream. All except she wasn’t falling into my arms or raining kisses on me. She was just looking at me concerned.
“Are you okay? You look flushed.”
“No, I’m okay. I’m Sorry.”
“Sorry for what?”
I couldn’t tell her what I was sorry for. Here I was having similar thoughts as the typical male would with a guest of a girl staying with him. Priding myself on being different, I chided myself for having such fantasies. I couldn’t tell her how I was feeling in that instant. I was angry at myself, feeling that in my mind at least I was betraying her trust.
“Nothing,” I replied. “Sorry for..um daydreaming.”
She smiled. “It’s okay; I do that a lot myself. The bath is ready for you if you want to take yours now.”
“I’ll be back down in a little bit,” she said, and turned to go up the stairs to her room. I couldn’t help but watch her as she walked away. I hadn’t watched a woman so much since…well since never. Summer was nothing short of captivating, and if she had turned and said to me in that moment, ‘you want to come up,’ I would have reached the top of the stairs before her. I shook my head, thinking myself silly, and went to take my bath.
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.