Hello everyone, and welcome to another day of serial romance. As we get closer to the conclusion of our tale (about 70 pages left?) I wanted to let you know there is a possibility I may speed things up a bit. In other words, instead of being a daily serial romance, this may become the twice daily serial romance. The reason for this is because I am considering entering the National Novel Writers Month competition. If I can find a new project for this, and if I can get myself prepared in the next 9 days, then I’ll need to have Orchard House shared in its completion to give me the necessary time for trying to pen a novel in the month of November. With that said, and I’m still undecided about NaNoWriMo, I’ll be posting two parts of our daily serial today. So, here goes the first…..
Part 54: Matthew’s Decision
It was early evening when I got out of bed. Through the dark curtains I could see the sun hadn’t fully descended behind the mountains, but it wouldn’t be long. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I slipped into my clothes. Summer was in a deep contented sleep, and I thought to myself how all this seemed a dream. In my own grogginess, from having fallen sleep after lovemaking, I had a terrible notion that all this never happened. It was just my imagination, and any minute I would awaken for real to find myself all alone in Orchard House, Summer having never come through the door. Perhaps this entire week had been a hazy dream, a fantasy of a life that could have been, and in that moment I panicked. If it’s a dream and I wake up to the same lonely life I was trying to escape, it would be unbearable. To discover none of this had been real, or to think it could be over any minute, or even to have found this angel only to lose her somewhere down the road, sent me into a dizzying array of scenarios in my head. She wouldn’t stay. She would one day be unhappy and find a younger man. She would suddenly grow tired of me. She would be like her father and bolt for her freedom. I would say or do something to hurt her feelings, and she would flee so far it would be as if she never existed. And with those thoughts in my head, and me watching her sleeping peacefully on the bed, I came to the conclusion that dreams like this don’t last. A man like me doesn’t get the girl. Not ever. I went out into the hallway and down the stairs. Down the lower hall and into the dining room and kitchen. I was a man on the scariest mission of his life. Waking up.
With one hand in my pocket on the envelope Gunboats had given me, and the other hand swinging madly at my side as if it would propel myself faster along, I headed across the orchard towards the house occupied by lovers I could never attain to be like.
Approaching the house, with the sky nearly turning red behind me, I saw several people on the front porch. Hope sat in the swing with her daughter Helen beside her, while sitting on the top step was Gunboats, apparently whittling on a piece of wood. When he saw me, his face broke into a smile. “Matthew,” he called out in a cheerful voice, getting up from his seat to descend the steps and greet me.
I pulled the envelope out of my pocket and held it out. “I’ve been thinking of this.”
“Yeah?” he asked, not taking the envelope from my hands.
“I don’t think I should have it.”
He shook his head. “You didn’t come here to give it back.”
He grabbed me by my arm and led me away from the porch, out of the earshot of the women. “You came here because you’re scared it’s not going to work,” he said. “Hell, you’re scared you might be happy. I see it all over your face. Come on.”
Not letting go of my arm, he pulled me around the side of the house so they couldn’t even see us talking, though I know I must have alarmed them with my wild eyed look. “Mathew, you’ve been hurting and lonely for so long, you’re afraid of life, love, and damn near everything. Well, let me clue you in…there are no guarantees, not in anything. And fear is okay. You’re not always going to be the best man to Summer. “
He put both hands on my arms and looked into my face as if he were a father trying to make sense to his hard headed son. “You will make mistakes, expect it. You’ll open your mouth and say something stupid without thinking. You’ll do something to hurt her feelings. You’ll make her upset because you didn’t notice she had her nails done. It’s natural, and more than that …it’s okay. We are not perfect, son. Not men. Not women. We are all seriously flawed creations of a perfect God. So expect some mistakes to be made on your part.”
He nearly shook me before letting me go. “But along with these mistakes, you’ll do some great things, too. For one, you will make her happy. You’ll make her smile when no one else can. You’ll say the right words when she needs encouragement. You’ll do the right thing when everyone else does her wrong. You’ll see her as beautiful when she is feeling less than pretty. And you will love her like no one else ever has. So stop being afraid. The fear is natural. But love, I mean real true love, is perfect, even when we think it’s not. People will tell you love is hell, but I’ve been on the front lines of hell, I know. Love isn’t that at all. It’s heaven, pure heaven, but like getting saved by Jesus, getting saved by a woman only happens if you really really want it. Now, do you want it or not?”
I didn’t need to answer that. We both knew it. I hung my head ashamed. “I guess I just needed to be reassured.”
He put a hand on my shoulder. “I’m not the one you should be seeking that assurance from.”
“I know. I don’t know what happened. One minute I was watching her sleep, the next I was flipping out that it all would end one day.”
“As I said, it’s natural. We love someone so much that we can’t bear the thought of it ever being over. Even if there’s no chance of that happening we tend to convince ourselves it will. When that happens, you have to just tell yourself…self, shut up.”
He patted me on the back. “You know as well as I do that she loves you, and I know you love her, so what are you doing here talking to an old man when there’s a beautiful young woman who has probably woken up and is freaking out that you aren’t there.”
I nodded and smiled. “You’re right.”
“That’s why you came to me,” he replied with a mischievous grin. “Now, go say bye to Helen and Hope so they’ll know you two haven’t fallen apart or anything, okay?”
“Yeah,” I said, and we walked back around front where the women sat anxiously in the swing. They both smiled when they saw me, though the smiles were of the worried kind.
“How’s things with Matthew and Summer?” Helen asked.
“They’re doing well.”
“What do you think of that?” she asked, pointing at the envelope in my hand.
I looked at it. “I think it’s generous.”
“No, it’s not. It’s just the right thing to do.”
I nodded and smiled. “Yes, I guess it is. Thank you.”
Helen leaned forward on the swing. “I’d like to talk to you about that, though.”
“Okay,” I answered a little nervously, having no idea what she was getting at.
Helen scooted over so there was room on the swing between the two women. “Come on up here and sit down with us ladies for a minute. We want to make sure you understand something so you’ll be prepared.”
After I understood, I walked back across the field, my head full of details. All the things people had said in the last two days bounced around in my head and I was trying to put it all in order so it would make sense. I stopped at the edge of the orchard where Summer and I had first danced. I opened the envelope again and looked inside. I was startled by the sound of an apple falling from the tree beside me to hit the ground. Looking at where the fruit had just minutes ago been hanging firmly, waiting to be picked, I finally knew what to do.
Summer was still in bed when I got back to the house. I thought she was sleeping, but when I sat on the mattress I realized she had been waiting for me. “Where did you go?” she asked.
“I went to go see Gunboats.”
“I’m starting to worry. That’s the second time you’ve left my side to go hang out with an old guy on the far side of the orchard.”
I touched her cheek. “Yeah I know. I’m sorry.”
“As long as it was for something important.”
“Good,” she said with a smile. “I like Gunboats.”
“Yeah me too. I’ve been missing a father figure.”
“Aw, that’s sweet.”
“Been missing having a goddess figure too.”
She laughed. “Oh, you have a goddess figure now?”
“Nope. But you do.”
Her eyes lit up with a fresh round of laughter. “Oh ok, I get it,“ she said. Sitting up in bed, she pulled the sheets up around her. “So really, what is it with you and Gunboats?”
I hesitated. Do I tell her how I almost bolted and ran, just like Ashley, just like her father? Do I tell her I’m so afraid of her falling out of love with me just as quickly as she fell in? Or do I just come out and reveal that I’m afraid of failing her, afraid of not being what she wanted, afraid of, like Gunboats said everything. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her these things and I felt bad about it, like I was hiding something important from her. I thought of the apple tree out back with one less apple on it. Now that was important. Soon all these apple trees would mean nothing, all but that one. And the one next to it, that it desperately needs in which to perform its life’s purpose. It was then I knew that my fear was infinitesimally small compared to the bigger picture.
“Get dressed,” I told her.
I picked her clothes off the floor and set them on the edge of the bed. “Put your clothes on. I have something to show you.”
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.