Welcome to the now twice daily serial novel. We are almost there, folks. Yesterday I posted that we had around 70 pages to go, but I was wrong. There’s only 35, so we are getting close now, and should be at the end next week. Congratulations if you have followed me this far 😉
So, because I am considering taking part in Novel Writing Month and its challenge to churn out a 50,000 page novel next month, we will be having two parts of Orchard House posted each day until we reach the conclusion. Here’s the first part. Hope you enjoy!
Part 56: Left Handed Kiss
We need to talk,“ Summer said, as we sat at the dining table eating the last remnants of breakfast food in the house. She wrapped her arms about herself, though the morning chill had already dissipated. “Okay,” I replied, a hint of worry in my tone. It wasn’t exactly what she said, but the way she came out of the blue with it, as if she had been allowing it to build up inside her for so long.
“What are we going to do?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we know this is our last day to stay here. In the morning we’ll have to go…but where do we go?”
I thought about this. “I had thought you would go home to finish up things with your mom’s estate and I would go back to the city to wait until I heard from you. But that was before I asked you to marry me.”
“You could come with me,” she said.
I looked at her. “If you want me to.”
“I wouldn’t suggest it unless I wanted you to. But do you want to? Or do you need to settle some things, too?”
I knew what she was implying. “It’s settled. It was settled when she didn’t show.”
She nodded. “I guess I’m thinking you didn’t get the closure you wanted. Not like I got with my father anyway.”
“I don’t need closure. I have a new beginning, and that is perfectly alright with me.”
She smiled, but something in the look said she was unsure.
I reached across the table and took her hands. “Wherever you go, I’m going with you. There is nothing back in the city except an empty apartment. To go back there would only remind me you were somewhere else. “
She squeezed my hands. “Okay, love. I just needed to know what you wanted to do, how we were going to proceed with this.”
“When do you want to get married?”
The abrupt question threw her off. “What?”
“The date. What do you want to shoot for?”
She smiled. “Talk about putting a girl on the spot.”
“You don’t have to answer now. Just think about it and let me know. My schedule is open.”
She smiled. “Is it now?” Leaning across the table, she kissed me. “Okay then.” She leaned back in her seat and nervously played with the ring on her finger. “How about I go take me a bath? I can think about it over hot water and bubble bath.”
“Okay, that’s fine.”
Summer got up from the table and went to put her breakfast plate in the kitchen sink. “Why don’t you pick out something for me to wear?” she asked over her shoulder.
She turned around and cast me a mischievous look. “If we’re to be married you have to learn how to dress me…not just undress me.”
“I’ll try, but I’m liable to pick out the wrong thing.”
“If it’s in my wardrobe, it’s not wrong,” she replied. “You can pick out my underwear, too.”
“That’s going to be the toughest decision of my life.”
She laughed. “You’ll do fine. Lots of sexy stuff for you to choose from.” As if to make her point, she walked across the linoleum floor, undressing as she went. She was down to her underwear by the time she passed through the open bathroom doorway. “You can just bring me your choices when you’ve made up your mind.”
She left the door open and I couldn’t help but sneak a peek as she turned on the water for her bath and slipped out of the rest of her clothes. I turned with a smile and made my way from the scene, out of the kitchen, through the house and upstairs to her room.
Looking through her clothes, trying to pick out something wasn’t an easy task, but I settled on a flowery hippie top that looked to be half halter, half frilly blouse. A pair of cutoff jeans with peace signs sewn on the pockets complemented the top, and I snatched up her sandals, knowing she wasn’t as comfortable in regular shoes. The underwear selection was much harder. I felt like anything I picked would be designed to show off her figure. I decided not to fight it and picked out what I thought were the laciest, sexiest things in her drawer. She might pick on me for being so skimpy on her attire, but she did tell me to pick out something. I couldn’t help that I thought she would look irresistible in these things.
I headed out of her room, but before I could start down the stairs, I heard a knock at the front door. Looking out the hallway window, I could see a familiar colored pickup truck in the drive. I headed down the stairs, and as I passed by the front door, I called out, “Be there in a minute, hold on!”
I headed quickly to the bathroom and set her things on the sink. “Sorry,“ I said. “I tried not to do so sexy, but I’m horrible at that.”
She giggled. “I figured as much,“ she happily teased, looking absolutely beautiful in the tub, bubbles surrounding her lithe frame, her legs propped up on the edge of the clawed tub.
“By the way,” I said, trying not to be too distracted, “Someone’s at the door. Looks like Earl’s truck.”
“Okay. Tell him I’ll be out in a minute.”
“Will do, love.” I bent over and kissed her on the forehead, the nose, and finally the lips. She scooped up a handful of bubbles and put them on my chin. With her girlish laughter behind me, I flicked the bubbles back at her and left the bathroom, shutting the door behind me before she could fling more suds my way. I headed towards the front of the house as the knock became louder and more insistent. “Hold on, Earl. I’m coming.”
I reached the big oak door and opened it wide. “Hey Earl…”
I stopped. It wasn’t Earl on the front porch. This person wore an old Dave Matthews band t-shirt, but if they thought I was happy to see them they were definitely under the table and dreaming.
“Hi Matthew,” the visitor said with a big smile designed to throw me off guard.
“What are you doing here, Ashley?” I asked.
She flipped her blonde hair off her shoulders with a flourish that seemed vainer than anything. Now I knew why Delilah had cut all of Samson’s locks off. “I wanted to see you,” she cooed innocently.
“Um…” , she murmured with a breathy sigh. “Well, I was talking to Eric and he said you sounded depressed.. and so I wanted to see if there’s anything I could do.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Did she actually think I would be happy to see her? Was she that struck on herself? Yeah, I guess she was. “You can get in your truck and leave,“ I suggested.
It didn’t faze her. She poured on the charm with a hurt look that was anything but genuine. But still, she tried. “Look, I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry I left you waiting. I’m sorry I chickened out…”
“Chickened out?” I exclaimed. “It wasn’t drag racing, it was a freaking wedding!”
She put a hand on my arm. “I know I can’t make up for what I did, but I came because I know you need me.”
I shrugged her hand off me as if she were a pesky fly. I couldn’t believe the audacity of this woman. “It’s always about you Ashley, isn’t it? Well, you’re wrong. It’s not about you at all, not anymore. It’s about me and what I want, what I need…and it’s certainly not you…maybe once, but not now. Or ever again.”
Throwing things in her face obviously didn’t help. She was always right and you were always wrong. Your lips moved and it didn’t even register with her, she was so lost in her vain little world. As if to prove this, she tried to step closer to me, as if her mere presence would make me weak. “Mathew, I know you still love me. You can’t hide it. I see it in your eyes still. It’s written all over your face.”
“True,“ I agreed with an evil, vindictive smile. “Love is in my eyes and written all over my face. But it’s not for you.”
Her smiling ‘I get what I want’ face faltered just slightly. “Who else would…” she started, and then froze, looking over my shoulder.
As if she had listening and waiting behind the door, Summer stepped out wearing the clothes I had picked out for her. I was very proud that she looked so beautiful it made Ashley look like a homely school marm next to her. “Hello Ash,” she said. “I’m Summer.”
Ashley looked back and forth between us, her face registering surprise. But she recomposed herself quickly with a spiteful competitive glare. “And you are who exactly?” she spat.
“I’m the fiancée…exactly.”
“Yeah,” Summer replied, holding up her right hand. “Can’t you see the ring?”
Ashely looked at the empty hand. “No,” she replied with an assured smile.
Summer punched her in the face with her left fist. Ashley’s head reeled back sharply, and I imagined her nose was not going to be looking so straight on her face anymore. She stared at Summer in complete horror, as if no one had ever dared put her in her place before.
“How about now?” Summer asked.
Ashley held her nose with her hand. “I think you broke my nose,“ she cried.
“You broke his heart, so consider it even,” Summer replied. “Now get off our porch or I’m liable to do something about that snake of a smile, too.”
Ashley spun so fast on her heels and took off for her truck you would have thought the devil himself…or herself ..were in pursuit. I almost felt bad for her, but then told myself, after what she put me through, she deserved just what she got.
Summer looked over at me, as the truck backed out of the drive, spitting angry gravel into the air. “I told you I was liable to punch the next person to come to the front door.”
I laughed. “I shouldn’t have doubted you.”
“Nope.” She shook her hand as if it stung. “Man, that hurt. But worth it.”
The truck was disappearing down the road, columns of dust in its speeding wake.
“So, why did you do it?” I asked.
“Well, you helped me with my dad, just thought you needed help with the bitch. Hope you didn’t mind.”
I put my arm around her. “Not at all. Want to hit my brother?”
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.