Part 53: Matthew’s Confession
The drive down the back roads and rural routes to Orchard House was quiet at first. Neither of us turned on the radio or dared to even break the silence. Maybe we just need to assimilate all the information our visit with Earl had brought. Summer leaned against the passenger side door, peering out her window as I drove. “You okay?” I finally asked.
“Yeah,” she sighed, turning to me. “I’m sorry. I was lost in thought.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“What you thinking about?”
“I was just thinking about life’s little connections.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you and Orchard House for one. I mean, you had no idea that you were made there so to speak. You never even knew your mom and dad had been there.”
She nodded. “And yet it’s connected.”
“Yes. What are the odds, do you think, that where life began for your parents…well it became a place for you to begin again as well.”
“What about you?”
“What about me?”
“You’re connected to this too. Did my mother wish you into being here? I find that pretty far-fetched. Earl seems to think she lured you here somehow with the help of God or something, and while it’s a very romantic notion, I don’t think that’s what brought you here.”
I looked away from her for a moment. Glancing out my driver’s side window, I watched the wide open fields roll by, knowing the time had come for the truth. As if realizing this, she prompted me further.
“Exactly how did you find Orchard House?” She asked.
“I was just driving along, saw the signs like your parents did, and decided to drive down this road.”
“But you weren’t interested in seeing apples like my mom was. So what was it?”
“I felt like it was secluded. I wanted to be alone. Make things easier for myself if people weren’t around me.”
“You had no agenda then, just wanted seclusion? I was looking for my father, which was my whole reason for coming to these parts. It was secluded enough for me to gather my thoughts and work up the courage to do what I had to do. What did you want the seclusion for?”
I pulled the car over. Though we were close to the house, and the orchard itself lay on either side of us, I knew I couldn’t hide the truth from her forever. The road ahead and behind us was empty, and it made me think of the emptiness within me when I had arrived here. This sorrowful, wailing emptiness that had been eating me from within.
“Summer, if I tell you why I came, I will look very weak in your eyes. Right now you need someone to be strong for you, and if I tell you, then I fear I’ll no longer be that in your eyes.”
“Maybe you need someone to be strong for you too,” she said.
She reached over and put her hand over mine. “Matty, I will never think less of you, if that’s what you’re afraid of.”
I looked into her beautiful brown eyes. “Are you sure?”
“Yes I am. You have changed my world. I’m not the same person I was a week ago, and that’s because of you. You’re a beautiful man and you have made me feel more beautiful than I could ever imagine. You are a wonderful human being. Through you I have discovered the true wonder of living. Now, please tell me.”
I took a deep breath. “When Ashley left me standing there on our wedding day with baited breath, I didn’t want to be around anyone anymore. I wanted the world to just leave me alone. The more I sat around my apartment thinking, the more it hurt and twisted me up inside. The apartment reminded me of my hollow emptiness. Everyone I knew reminded me that everything I had known for the past years with her had been a lie. I took to the road to escape all that, and then as I was on the road, it came to me to find the most secluded spot I could find and just end it all.”
“Summer, I was tired of everything. Tired of living. Tired of losing. Done with the disappointment. Over with the loneliness. My parents were gone. My brother a stranger to me. My bride to be was a no-show. My career a failure. There was nothing left, but to give up.”
She let go of my hand. “I understand about the giving up. But to kill yourself?”
I hung my head in shame. “I didn’t think there was anything left. I’m not exactly a young man anymore. The world wasn’t wide open to me as it was when I got out of college. If Ashley didn’t want me, then who would? It was too late to change careers. I felt like the only thing left was a life of loneliness, and I didn’t think I was strong enough to endure it.”
“So the day I came through the door of Orchard house, you were, what, in the shower plotting out how to do it?”
“Yeah. I was thinking of just going out in the orchard with a pile of sleeping pills and let the breeze take me away. That was my actual thought. Let the breeze take me. And then you came through the door singing ‘they call me the breeze.’ At the time, I didn’t know if it was God’s way of laughing at me or whether some prayer from too many years ago had finally been answered. “
She slid over closer to me and put her arm across my shoulder. “When I came through the door that day,“ she said, “I may have seemed like this happy go lucky country girl, but I was just hiding it better than you. My mother was gone, guys in my life just wanted to drink and watch football, and my father, whom I despised like no other man, was all I had left. I just wanted to find him, tell him what an asshole he is, and waste the rest of my life away, working jobs I hate and following some loser of a boyfriend who’d rather yell ‘touchdown’ than say ‘you’re beautiful.’ But the moment I met you, something inside of me started to break free. I put on this face, this brave happy face so you would like me. But it wasn’t exactly who I was at the time. I’m not saying my loneliness was worse than yours, or my emptiness on par, I’m just saying life before you, life a week ago, was very different for me.”
“It was different for me, too. I didn’t throw away the pills until the night we danced on the edge of the orchard. It was then I realized there was something to live for. Something worth fighting for. And when you kissed me, as silly as it may sound, it was like you drew the desire to die right out of me and replaced it with a different kind of desire.”
She smiled. “You handled that desire very well.”
I couldn’t help but smile now myself. “Yes I guess I did. But I fought loving you, because I felt once I did, you would go. You’d find your father and have someone new to take care of. In my experience, love was hurt, and I was scared of that. I was afraid the moment ‘I love you’ left my lips that ‘see you later’ is what I would hear back.”
“Matthew, I admit I was, and am still scared. Loving someone makes you very vulnerable, and no one wants to be exposed like that. But I also admit I feel wonderful when I’m with you. These days with you, these nights with you, have been the very best times of my life. And I don’t want them to end. Not by my leaving, or by you killing yourself. Understood?”
“Yes,” I said, and the tears came forth like a waterfall that had been held back for so long. I cried against her soft warm cheek, my tears mingling with the ones she too was shedding. “I never want to feel so alone again,” I said.
“You won’t, I promise.”
“I love you, Summer.”
“I love you too, Matthew.”
I smiled. “The first time you ever said my name, I remember it was like… the first ray of sunshine after forty years of rain.”
I could feel her lips curl into a smile against my face. “Let’s go home, “ she said.
And I imagined that Orchard House not far down the road, if it could have, would have broken into a smile too.
It was early afternoon and we settled down in front of the TV. There wasn’t much to watch, so we settled on browsing the small collection of Dvd’s and VHS tapes that had been collected over the years. I almost selected the Ernest video we had watched earlier in our stay, but instead went for more serious fare, a travel video that showcased some of the local attractions. One of the attractions was the mountain peak we had visited not long ago and watched the sunset. We both looked at each other and smiled. But there was a look on Summer’s face that told me she had something on her mind other than local tourist attractions. It was a look of serious concern, but when I asked her what was wrong, she said it was nothing and went about watching the television. After a few minutes, she couldn’t keep quiet anymore.
“Would you really have done it?” she asked.
I didn’t have to ask her what she was talking about. “I don’t know,” I replied. “After my parent’s death, I had to go to the hospital. I wasn’t handling things very well, so my brother called someone and they recommended I get help.”
“Well yeah, for a little while. When I got back home, Ash took care of me. I look back on it now and I think she was preparing to bolt then, but I guess her mothering gene kicked in and she stuck around. I think maybe the only reason she agreed to marry me was she needed to be needed. Otherwise she had no use for me. She didn’t want to be loved, nor did she know how to love…and I promise one day I will stop talking about her.”
“She hurt you very badly, Matthew. I don’t expect you to stop talking. I want you to talk to me more. One day she’ll be out of your system and you won’t have to worry about her anymore. You’ll have better things in your system.”
I smiled to reassure her. “I already do.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. Deep in my system.”
“How deep?” she teased.
“Well…you know that Bee Gees song?”
She held up her hands as if she were trying to ward me off. “Oh no, you don’t,” she said. “Don’t you dare!”
I opened my mouth to sing the song, my voice coming with a high falsetto, though not nearly as high as any of the Brothers Gibb. Not only that, I couldn’t keep the notes and my voice was cracking. All in all, I have to admit it was pretty horrible. As I got to the chorus she leapt up from the couch to try and get away, but I grabbed her at the waist and started to tickle her. She squealed in delight and jumped back from my grasp. Still attempting to sing the worse version of “How Deep Is Your Love”, I got up and came after her. She let out a playful scream and took off. I gave chase and we both fled down the hall, me on her lovely heels. She ran around the corner and right up to the front door, as if she were going to go crashing through it like the Road Runner being chased by Wile E. Coyote. I grasped for her waist and she spun around, allowing me to collide into her until her back rested against the door. I put my hands on either side of her like I was trying to keep her from ducking under my grasp and escaping. I don’t think she planned for escape, however. Instead her lips met mine in a furious hunger, her arms circling around me to pull me into her, pinning her pleasantly against the door. Our mad kiss, full of hungry passion, was not an unrelenting brutal thing however; it was just an urgent outpouring of our desire for each other. Perhaps it was the events of the day, all the revelations that had been uncovered that made us cling together as if we were life itself. I scooped her up in my arms and carried her up the stairs. With her one hand holding onto me, while the other caressed my face, we went around the corner on the landing, right towards the last untouched room in the house. And there, behind that door, we made love in Orchard House one last time.
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.