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Part 32: A Portrait & Pizza
“That was kind of creepy,” I said, as we made our way back up the path to the house.“What do you mean?”
“Well, she acts like Orchard House is a living entity with the power to make people fall in love or something.”
“You don’t believe that a person’s surroundings contributes to how they might feel?” Summer asked.
“I think a person’s feelings are completely up to that person, not a house.”
“So if we had met in the city, in a duplex or townhouse surrounded by crowds of people, you would still have danced with me last night?”
“Well, I don’t know. I would like to think…”
“If there had been no orchard, no country moonlight, no romantic blues music playing in the air, would you have been compelled to dance, or even kiss me?”
“Those things set a certain mood, yes, but it’s not why I kissed you.”
She nodded and took a drink of her soda. “Then why did you kiss me?”
I stopped. “Why? That’s a silly question.”
“No it isn’t. Humor me, and answer.”
I looked around, feeling like I was in the middle of an open courtroom, more than an orchard. I sighed.
“I kissed you because I like you. We were dancing close, all alone just you and I and the music. I could feel your heart beating, your pulse racing, your breath on me, and all I could think of was, God I want to kiss her. So, I did.”
She put her hand up and touched my cheek. “Matthew, I’m not putting you on trial. You look so nervous. I just wanted to know, that’s all.“ She got on her tip toes and kissed my forehead. “I needed to know that you kissed me because you wanted to, not because I wanted you to.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize you wanted me to.”
She playfully growled at me. “Now you’re on trial, buddy.” Then she kissed me, her tongue playfully running across my lips until I opened my mouth to take her kiss fully within me. Parting minutes later, she said, “but you have been acquitted.” She took my hand. “I may have to keep you under house arrest though.”
She led me back to Orchard House and for a brief moment I thought of Gunboats and Hope, how it was for them to fall in love with each other during such turbulent times. Their worries were different than ours, and yet their fears were the same. If Summer and I were to endure past the next few days we were going to have to lose that fear, somehow, someway.
+ + + +
The day was shaping up to be wonderful. Summer was staying, we made out under an apple tree, and now after helping her carry her bags upstairs, she was unpacked. I didn’t go inside her room, that was a girl’s private sanctuary, but instead I set her bags down outside her door and went back downstairs to wait. I put a frozen pizza in the oven for our lunch and stood looking out the window, wondering about Helen’s story and how different this place might have been seventy years ago.
Here in Orchard House it did seem like you were in another place and time, when life was simpler and something you nurtured, not tumbled headlong into. From the window I could see the white steeple of the country church and thought of how many couples may have been married there over the years. Had Helen’s parents, Gunboats and Hope, tied the knot there? More importantly, would I ever be able to bring myself to wait at the end of an aisle for a woman to come sliding up there in her bridal gown, or had the first one ruined me for that kind of dream?
“Hey come here,” I heard Summer say from behind me and it brought me out of my reverie. “I found something you have got to see.”
I followed her upstairs, and at first I thought she was going to lead me into her room, but instead we went around the banisters on the landing and to the bedroom across from Summer’s. Beside the door she stopped and directed my attention to the wall. Hanging there next to the door, as if marking the room for future generations, was a portrait. It was easy to tell the backdrop was Orchard House, still in its pristine original condition. Standing on the front porch, using its steps as a stage, stood a family. At front and center on the first step stood mom and pop. He was wearing farmer’s bibs and had a scowl on his face, though I imagine it was his usual wearied look and not because he was upset. She wore a long dress and an apron, as if she had been interrupted halfway through fixing dinner to come pose for the picture. On the step behind them stood two girls, one dressed as a girl of the times should, the other dressed similar to her father in overalls and a work shirt. The girly one was strikingly beautiful, with her lipstick and hair done up in a bun. The other girl’s hair hung down straight, natural brown curls framing a face that held more mystery than her sister. It was easy to tell who these girls were. Jessica and Hope. In my opinion, I could easily see why Gunboats had taken a shine to Hope. Despite her lack of makeup and feminine attire, she had a natural beauty and charm that shone through even in an old black and white photograph. Behind Hope stood a tall boy in soldier’s uniform. With dark hair and eyes like her, it was apparent this was her brother, for he was making a silly face behind her head. Next to him stood Gunboats. This was also easy to tell because he wore a soldier’s uniform. His hair was pale blonde, almost yellow, and he had a chubby face with deep set eyes that were almost aqua blue. He wasn’t looking at the camera though. No, he was looking at Hope, and his eyes betrayed his longing for her, his adoration for the tomboy country girl who wouldn’t love him while there was a war going on.
“It must have been taken a day or two before they went back to the war,” Summer said. “Look.” She pointed to the blonde soldier. Around his neck you could see it, a chain upon which hung the ring that Hope had refused. Looking closer at the two star crossed lovers, if you wished to call them that in those conservative times, I saw the parallels that maybe Helen was trying to make. The blonde haired blue eyed traveler and the dark haired, dark eyed country girl. If set in a later age, it could have been us.
“I know,” Summer said, as if knowing what I was thinking. “They were from different worlds, but here they found each other, even if one didn’t want to admit it.”
“Which one of us doesn’t want to admit it?”
She smiled. “Good question. What are we not admitting to again?”
Before I could answer, a sudden realization hit me. “Oh no, the pizza,” I exclaimed.
We both went around the landing and raced down the stairs. Luckily the kitchen wasn’t on fire, but the pizza was burnt on the bottom and around the edges. I had to get a steak knife and pry it off the pan.
“Sorry,” I said.
“Hey it’s okay. I don’t mind crispy pizza.”
She got out a couple of plates and I did my best at cutting the pizza.
“I’ve been thinking,” she said. “You should really try your hand at writing again. Not just music reviews, but real writing, like a novel or something.”
I shook my head. “I don’t think I have one in me.”
She seemed to ponder this awhile, and then she smiled. “You could write about Gunboats and Hope.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think I could write a love story.”
“I bet you could.”
“I don’t know if I could capture that kind of feeling in words. I’ve always written about music, not emotion.”
“Music is emotion,“ she replied. “What’s your favorite love song?”
“You don’t know it. And if you do, you’ll just laugh.”
“Neil Diamond. Play me.”
She didn’t laugh. “So, why is it your favorite?”
“I guess the lyrics strike home to me. Have you heard it?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Well, it seems to be about two lonely people who meet on the road by chance and share a romantic evening together; a romantic evening that obviously lasted a lifetime, at least in memory anyway.”
“It has the prettiest acoustic guitar solo I have ever heard. I’m not sure if you’d call it a solo, though. It’s probably more of a break or interlude. It’s very pretty.”
“So, you have an emotional connection to it?”
“Then if music is emotion, and you write about music, I think you can write an emotional piece about Gunboats and Hope.” She smiled as if she had just connected the dots between evolution and religion.
“It’s not really the same. It’s a big difference between reviewing music and writing novels.”
“Okay. Let’s try this a different way.”
She leaned over and kissed me. Her lips lingered and parted slowly for mine. Our kiss grew more intimate. I found my hands reaching for her. At the moment I touched her face, she pulled away from me. “Okay, what was that like?”
“Close your eyes and tell me how that felt. Not as if you’re telling me, but as if you’re telling someone else.”
I wanted to protest, as I didn’t know where this was going, but I went ahead and did as she said. Closing my eyes, I thought of her lips touching mine. I softly sighed.
“Okay, here goes…I knew from the moment she kissed me this was what I wanted for the rest of my life. Her lips gently touched mine, and it was a comfort just to know this was real, not a dream, nor a girl’s simple fancy for a man. This was how she felt about me exemplified in how long her lips lingered on mine, how deeply her kiss drew me in, all the promises of tomorrow held fast by her parting lips and exploring tongue. If a man were made of butter, I would have been a melted puddle on the floor. And yet all I could think of was, please, please kiss me again.”
Suddenly, I felt Summer’s lips upon my face once more, and with my eyes still closed, I welcomed her kiss, letting it cover me. Her hands reached for me as I in turn, reached for her. Our kiss grew more passionate and full, and then I felt her smile within our embrace. Opening my eyes, I discovered she was looking right back at me. She gently pried herself from my touch.
“Now see, that was perfect. Not just the kiss, but your own personal description of it.” She smiled. “Don’t go trying to tell me you can’t write a love story.” She leaned as close to me as she could. “Now you have me anticipating the next chapter.”
I smiled back. I was anticipating it too…
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.