Part 41: Caught In The Rain
Walking back to Orchard House with Summer by my side, I felt changed somehow by our visit with Hope and Gunboats. And it wasn’t just me. I felt that Summer was also affected by the visit, as if she and Hope had a similar conversation as the one between Gunboats and I. Summer must have been thinking the same thing as she squeezed my hand.“So what did you good old boys talk about?”
“Not a lot,” I replied. “We talked about the story. He seemed to think I should write about us instead.”
“Yeah. I mean, I guess he gave me permission to write about them, but the more I think about it I wonder if that story is best left to them alone. It’s a personal private thing that changed their whole lives. But then again, maybe their life can be inspiring to someone else. Oh heck, I don’t know what to do.”
She smiled and nodded her head as if she found my indecision humorous. “Hope seemed to think the story should be about us, too.”
“Yeah, but she said something strange. She said something like, while our men are out there fighting wars; we women fight our own here closer to home. She said it took the war to make her realize she loved Gunboats more than anything.”
“I think he realized the same about her.” I told Summer about his experience in the ditches of war torn France and how he gave the ring to his buddy to give to Hope. I left out his thoughts about dying. I didn’t want to depress her with images of wounded soldiers sprawled in the mud awaiting death’s hand and wanting more than anything to see their loved one’s face before they left this earth.
“So his buddy brought the ring back and then Gunboats showed up alive a little afterwards?”
“I’m assuming that’s what happened. He never really said.”
“I bet Hope felt devastated seeing the ring brought back by someone else. To think your lover is dead would be the most horrible thing. “
“Yeah,” I agreed. It was a depressing thought and made me wonder what life would be like when Summer was gone and on her way back to Baltimore or wherever she came from. That in itself would be like dying to me. She must have known I was thinking deep lonely thoughts because she reached for my hand and pulled me close as we walked across the orchard towards the place we had come to call home. She pulled my arm around her shoulder forcing me to walk so close to her side it was as if we were conjoined at the hip.
“You are thinking bad thoughts, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” I replied, knowing there was no point in trying to hide it.
“Well, you shouldn’t. It’s a beautiful day. Tonight there’s a street party and I’m sure that in the house afterwards there’s a nice comfy bed with both our names on it.”
I smiled. After all, how could I not? Summer was infectious.Her upbeat demeanor was always there to lift me up. I couldn’t feel down for long when she was around, but that was just it. When she was gone, I would be in danger of falling to pieces. Being next to her was the most important and fulfilling thing I would ever experience.
“Yes I know,” I finally said, squeezing her shoulder. Flashing the best smile I could muster, I kissed her cheek, to which she then turned her head so I could kiss her lips instead. “I don’t really feel like going back to the house just yet. Would you like to take a walk with me, Miss Summer?”
She giggled at my feigned formality. “Why certainly, Sir Matthew. I would love to walk with you. Where pray tell are we venturing to on this lovely Saturday afternoon un-chaperoned?”
“Why, Miss Summer, chaperones would just spoil the adventure. I was thinking of just walking down a country road and seeing where the sojourn may take us.”
“Sounds absolutely lovely,” she replied in a perfectly pronounced voice as if she were a cultured southern belle on her way to the debutante ball. “Lead on, kind sir.”
We walked to the edge of the orchard and beyond the house, down the gravel driveway towards the Artist Village and the dirt road it sat by. Along the drive we passed by the grape vines on our left and the big magnolia tree that sat out front of the house on our right. The smell of both tree and vine seemed to waft on the air and assail my senses. If I were to write down a list of top ten scents, right below the number one spot occupied by my companion, you would find magnolia, honeysuckle, and all the other outdoor scents I had discovered during my time at Orchard House.
Going down the hill towards the road, we also passed by the small amphitheater benches and stage where they would set up for the street party this evening. It was hard to imagine this place overrun with people singing and dancing in the field and road, and I said as much to Summer.
“Wonder if they will play our song?” she asked.
I remembered us swaying to blues music at the orchard’s edge. Again, on a list of top ten things, that evening would definitely be close to the top. “I think it’s probably a different band this time.”
“We can still request it,” she replied with a wink. “Before we go running naked into the orchard again.”
I laughed. “I’m sure that would go over well with the crowd.”
We got to the bottom of the drive and I steered her to the left, away from the artist village, where several of the locals sat selling their creativity. We gave a casual wave to the artists there and walked up the dirt road, the orchard on our left and the creek on our right. Within minutes we were around the bend and passing by the country store, which was still packed with people enjoying the Apple festival. We walked on, hand in hand down the long stretch of road, my arm around the most wonderful woman I’d ever met. She lay her pretty head against my shoulder, the scent of her hair blending beautiful with that of the apple trees we quietly passed.
“I used to daydream of walking down a road like this,” I admitted.
“Yeah. Sitting in the city, looking out my window at all the busyness, just wishing to be somewhere else. I would wish I was walking down a country road surrounded by mountains instead of traffic and tall buildings…in the rain no less.”
She looked up. “Looks like you might get your wish.”
Following her gaze, I peered skyward and smiled. Dark clouds seemed to be gathering.
“Still, this is peaceful,“ she said. “When I was a kid it was like this. Nothing to do but play in the fields and splash around in the creek. When mom moved us to the suburbs, it was a strange experience. After a while I kind of forgot this way of life, but I do miss it.”
“Yes, who would have thought something as simple as this could be so….beautiful.”
“People don’t know what they are missing.”
“No, they don’t.”
“After we moved, I realized that running through the rain in the city is nothing like it was in the country.”
As if the skies had heard her, I felt a couple sprinkles on my head and looked up. The dark clouds had opened up and it was starting to drizzle. Summer smiled, a couple drops splashing upon her face.
“It’s wish time,” she said with a tiny laugh.
The sprinkling of rain started building and it fell faster around us. At this rate, it would soon be a shower. I stopped walking and swept Summer against me. I planted a kiss on her upturned face, the rain coming down on us, the country road slowly getting muddy beneath our feet. Her lips were wet and warm against mine, her arms encircling me in an embrace that was like something out of a Hollywood movie. And as cliché as all that sounds, what I felt in this moment could never be captured on a movie screen, unless there was a way to film the emotional contents of one’s heart. There is no way to properly describe the warmth of love as it washes over you, as if it were the rain itself washing away all the insecurities that had built up over time. With Summer against me, her lips pleasantly parting to welcome my kiss, the rain falling upon us much harder now, it was like we were standing alone, the last two people in the world clinging to each other as if it were all that was left. In truth, it was just that. When you took away all the worries and negativity, the uncertainties and fears, all that is left is love, finally free to wash over you like a summer shower cleanses the air and ground upon which it falls. But eventually,even a shower can get to be too much, and so we pulled back from our embrace, now realizing we were getting soaked. We both looked around, our eyes seeking shelter. We could run back down the muddy road to the store, but the little white church was closer, so with a grin we both ran for its safety, hopelessly trying not to stomp through puddles on our way to sanctuary.
Bounding up the steps and crouching underneath the small awning that protected the porch, we huddled against each other, squeezing into the tiny dry space, laughing all the while. If one could see us out there, they would have thought we were a pair of giggling teenagers, happy in their first crush and daring the rain to spoil their happiness. If one could see the look upon our faces, they would have seen we had not only taken a step out in the rain today, but had taken a step further as individuals, and indeed a couple. Today I felt so close to being completely healed. And then the door of the church opened behind us…
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.