Okay, here we go with the second part for today. As the name implies, I am going to miss sharing this story with you everyday. I hope you have enjoyed sharing in the adventure and what I have been trying to do with putting this tale out there like this. We are not at the end yet, but I just want to say thanks for taking the journey with me. I really have appreciated the company. 🙂
Okay, here’s today’s second part ….
Part 57: I’m Going To Miss This
After the Ashley incident, I did give considerable thought to calling Eric and blessing him out for sending her my way. Of course, it was my fault I gave him a clue to where I was last time I talked to him, but I didn’t think he would tell her. If anything, I thought he’d look it up on the internet and come track me down himself. Still, I did need to call him about something. And when I told Summer about it, she gave her approval.“If both my mother and I could find it in our hearts to forgive my father,” she said, “then I think you should forgive your brother.”
She was right. There was no sense holding grudges. So what he had talked to Ashley after she ditched me on that failed wedding day. So what he didn’t understand my grief at losing our parents when he was always a self-supporting guy, never relying on them for anything. So what he always seemed competitive with everything I ever wanted…it was all trivial, and forgiveness was far better for the soul and beneficial to the heart than bitter resentment.
I turned on my phone, while Summer went up to her room in search of hers, too. We hadn’t turned them on or used them for quite some time. Proof you don’t really need a cell when you’re alone in an isolated farmhouse with the one you love. I had several messages, but none were from him: apartment rent was due; a publisher returning my call and sounding so unenthusiastic I figured it was a rejection of sorts; a public service call asking for my support on the next local election. I dialed Eric’s number and waited for him to pick up. When he answered, I hesitated, but after a second I said hello and got down to business. Neither of us mentioned Ash.
When Summer came back down she declared that she also had several pesky calls waiting on her phone. One was from an ex she left behind.
“Today must be old lovers awareness day or something,” she said.
I laughed. “Want me to punch him in the nose?”
“Nah, I need the practice.”
“You could always invite him to the wedding.”
“Ha! No way. And you better not invite the wench either.”
I shook my head. “No worries there, baby. Though she could probably use a lesson on what is expected of brides on their wedding day.”
“Well Matthew, you don’t have to worry about this bride. I’ll be there.”
“Good.” I kissed her on her cheek. “Have you decided when?”
“Not really. I guess I’m ready when you are. We just need time to put the wedding together. I don’t even have a dress. Mom wasn’t exactly my size, and I think she sold hers to a consignment shop anyway. There’s a lot to think about though. Decorations, caterers, who’s going to be in the wedding party, hiring a preacher to do the deed, all sorts of details. It’s mind boggling to think about.”
“As long as it doesn’t boggle you so much you want to cancel.”
“No Matty, it’s not like that. It’s just a lot of things that have to be taken care of. We have to go to a courthouse and get us a license too.”
I shook my head. Leave it to her to think of all those things. I just wanted to marry the woman. I didn’t care about all the details, as long as she said “I do.” Finally I just smiled and kissed her. “Okay, we’ll try to get all we need first, and then we’ll plan on the big day.”
She put her arms around me and kissed me back. “I can’t wait.”
“Me either,“ I replied, thinking of Summer in a white wedding dress walking down the church aisle towards me in front of God and everybody. But for now, I had to be content just to watch her walk through the house.
In the kitchen she opened up the refrigerator. “We’re going to need to go to the store if we are going to have anything for lunch and dinner.”
“Well, I thought for our last evening here we could go out and have our first date as almost marrieds.”
“I like the sound of that,” she replied. “Though I can do without the almost part.”
“Me, too. But it won’t be long.”
“We should go to the store and see if they have anything we can have for our lunch.”
I nodded, knowing. “You want to tell her, don’t you?”
There was no need in hiding it, so she grinned. “Hey, I’m engaged to be married. A girl has to tell somebody.”
“What?” she asked.
“You make me so happy, Summer. No one could ever make me happier.”
“You make me happy too, Matty.”
“Thanks for giving me closure.”
She held up her hand, which was still a little red from meeting Ashley’s face. “My pleasure.”
“Not just that. The real closure came the moment you said you’d marry me.”
“I’m glad,“ she replied. “But I didn’t say it to give you closure. I said it because I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
I smiled and kissed her. “Well then…let’s go tell somebody.”
The smile that spread across her face was adorable. She jumped up and down excitedly as if she were a young girl getting ready to get her nails done for the first time. “Yes, let’s!”
The walk down the long path through the orchard reminded me of our first days here, when we were strangers becoming friends, secretly longing to be more. To look back on it, I had to smile. How Helen knew we would hit it off and become a couple was beyond me. Maybe after years of seeing people come and go from Orchard House, she had developed a knack for the ones that would explode into the grandest of loves. Perhaps she just knew from experience and family history, the effect the house had on others, lost and lonely wandering through this world. Either way, I felt like if this had been a fairy tale, she would have been the Godmother with the magic wand waving it over our heads and sprinkling our lives with wish making dust.
We didn’t take a straight path to the store, but instead wandered down the paths and rows of the orchard, which was huge and encompassed many acres. We had walked its paths before, even streaked them in the late night hour, but had never covered the entire area. We had seen the small cottage home of Hope and Gunboats far across the orchard next to the woods, and we wondered if anyone else lived, or had once lived, in other close proximities to the house. The question was answered as we followed a rutted trail within view of the store and down an embankment into a small valley, where a stream ran through. This stream diverted into different directions, mostly back into the orchard where it fed the pumps that provided moisture to the apples and peaches. Beyond the stream, and now out of sight of the store, we saw an old cottage. It may have once been a home not unlike Hope’s and Gunboat’s, but now it had fallen into disrepair. The front porch was leaning, windows had gaps between their frame and glass, and it needed a new paint job, its once white color now falling off in flecks revealing a dingy gray underneath. On the back side, there were remnants of a small greenhouse, maybe once capable of growing fruits and vegetables, but now fallen into disuse as well. The place was not a complete loss, but it was obvious no one had lived here for many years. Perhaps the diversion of the creek had made the ground a little too moist for habitation, or maybe a better house had been built to accommodate its original tenants. Had other members of this apple growing family lived here or was this the spot in which the country store had first started, far off the beaten track and doomed to failure if a better place wasn’t built closer to the road?
As we moved away from the house and went back up the embankment to rejoin the orchard, it made me sad that the history of this place would soon be lost. All the lives through the years who had been affected by the solitude and magic of Orchard House, now to fade untold with time. How many had stayed or lived here on these acres, falling in love, and taken that rarest of loves back with them into the world? Maybe that was the purpose of Orchard House – to instill in its visitors the healing power of love, taking broken lives, or at least those that were unfulfilled, and inspiring them to love beyond even their wildest hopes. If that was the case, then it was a shame it would do so no more with the closing of the best bed and breakfast ever.
Summer sensed I was deep in thought and squeezed my hand. “You okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m just lost in thought again.”
“By the look on your face, it seemed to be sad ones.”
“I’m just going to miss it is all.”
“Me too,” she replied, looking back at the rundown house we had just left. “I wish we had a place here, so we could stay. I think I’m going to miss this much more than I thought. No wonder Earl came back to this area.”
“We could try and see if there’s any places for rent nearby,” I suggested.
“That would be awesome, but I imagine most people in these parts are about selling, instead of renting. And correct if I’m wrong, but I don’t think either of us have the money to buy right now.”
“No, you’re correct,“ I replied sadly.
She stopped me and put her arms around my neck. “Hey, I don’t need a lot of money or things, Matthew. I’d be happy living with you anywhere.”
“Very really,” she replied with a soft kiss.
I hoped she was right in that or otherwise I was going to be a big disappointment as a husband. I had never been very ambitious, even in college. While everyone else aspired and persevered to make something of themselves, I was dreaming away interviewing local bands and following the national music scene like the biggest nerd ever. And back then nerds weren’t cool at all. I guess it was lucky for me that Summer loved them.
“Well,“ I sighed, as we resumed our walk across the orchard to the store, “no matter what, we can take all this with us.”
“What do you mean?”
“All the memories we have made here. No matter what road we may be on, they will be following right behind.”
She smiled. “I like that, poet boy. Every minute here is a memory made.”
“And what memories they are,“ I replied.
She slyly flashed me a smile. “We can make more…”
“I look forward to it.”
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.