Tag Archives: romantic

Vampire Boys Of Summer (revamped) Ep. 15

Vampire Boys Of Summer (Re-vamped)

15: The Visitor

I sat down on the edge of the bed and waited. When I didn’t hear her footsteps right away, I became madder than I already was. I got up and grabbed the remote to my TV. I turned it on and pulled up Netflix. Scrolling through my list, I couldn’t find anything good enough to irritate her with, so I went to the smart TV menu and pulled up YouTube. I had a playlist of Visual Kei videos I loved to watch. She hated loud rock music. Pop was fine. Country was ideal, but angry guitars she couldn’t stand. Even worse, she loathed music she couldn’t understand the words to. So I hit play and the first one came on. Incubus by Acid Black Cherry. Ah, it was perfect. I turned the volume as loud as I could. Take that, I thought. I wasn’t even sure why I was mad at her anymore, just that I was.

It didn’t take long. The song was only about half way through, and I was dancing and jumping around the room screaming at the top of my lungs, “Incubus, break me! Break everything, even this world!” It wasn’t a direct translation. I’d gotten it off the net somewhere, and it served good enough for now. A knock came at my door, quiet and reserved. I turned the music up louder and ignored it. I even kicked over my desk chair and wastebasket so she’d think I was really breaking stuff.

The knock came louder next time, and when I saw the handle trying to turn, I really got furious. I wanted so bad to slap her now. I bounded across the room, unlocked the door and threw it open. “Leave me alone!” I screamed, my open hand already arcing towards her exposed face. Except it wasn’t her.

The figure caught my wrist before it made contact. “If you wish me to leave you alone I will, though I’m hoping that isn’t the case.”

“Oh my god, Haru. I’m sorry. I thought you were…”

“It’s okay.” He let go of my wrist. “You do have a pretty nasty swing.”

I blushed a little, embarrassed.

He raised one eyebrow. “I’m talking about your slapping hand, of course.”

I blushed even more. To think he may have noticed any other swing I might possess was enough for my whole face to turn cherry red.

“You invited me over, remember? I realize you may not have meant so soon but I wanted to apologize.”

“Do you open every greeting with an apology?”

He smiled. “It seems like it, doesn’t it?”

We stood there, awkward for a minute, me in the doorway, and he still out there in the hall.

“You can wait in the living room downstairs,“ I finally said. “I’ll be down in a minute. Just let me…”

“I can’t come in your room?”

“Um, well…I’ve never had…I mean I’m not sure…”

“Thanks,“ he replied, and before I knew it, he had glided past me and into my bedroom. “Oh wow, this is so cool.” He looked around the room at all the J-Rock posters and manga pictures I had plastered on the walls. He picked up the remote and turned the TV volume down, at least enough so we could be heard. “Yasu is great,“ he said pointing to the Acid Black Cherry video. “Wish I had his clothes.”

For a fleeting moment I had a vision of myself dressing him in those clothes, but I forced it away, not sure if the image was from my own head or his.

“Did you draw all these?” He was standing at my desk and leaning towards the mirror where I had taped some hand drawn manga to its surface.

“Yes, I did,“ I replied a little warily. The picture I had drawn of him in class was among them. He noticed it. Though it wasn’t accurate, it did capture some of his features, mostly his cheeks and the shape of his nose. I had drawn it from the memory of seeing him look up at the stars, so that’s about all I could make out of his face at the time. Still, he seemed to know it was him. I thought he was going to ask me about it, put me on the spot or something, but he just smiled and turned towards me.

“Well, as I said, I came over to say I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“Breaking down on you like that today. I’m afraid my first impression is that of a cry baby.”

Before I knew what was coming out of my mouth, I said, “I like boys who cry.”

He gave me a curious look. “Oh, are you a masochist?”

“No,“ I giggled. “I just like boys who aren’t afraid to show their feelings.”

“Hm. Well, I have lots of feelings to show.” He looked at me, making direct eye contact. His dark eyes were so beautiful. I had never seen anything so deep and expressive. There was an intensity that screamed loneliness, and in that moment I wanted nothing more than to take that from him. I backed away from him, a little frightened of my own feelings, which up until that moment I thought I had a handle on.

“If you want me to,“ he added quietly.

I must have been in a dreamy daze because I heard myself say, “If I want you to what?”

“To show my feelings more.”

“Oh.” I shook my head as if cobwebs had taken up residence inside it. “I’m sorry I was … um…daydreaming, I guess.”

“I wish I could have my own dreams. Maybe you could share me yours.”

“I..I don’t know what you mean, but…”

He laughed. “Forget it. I don’t know what I mean either. I’m just trying to..um..be your friend.”

I looked down at the floor so he wouldn’t see my smile. “I’d like that, “ I said.

He nodded. “Cool.” Then he smiled, and I froze. For just a moment I saw them. His fangs. He didn’t have a big kind of smile that made his whole mouth open, and when he laughed his lips barely parted, so I hadn’t noticed them before. But for a moment I thought I saw them at either side of his jaw, sharp to the point and glistening white. Self-consciously, he closed his mouth.

“Sorry, “ I said. “I didn’t mean to stare or anything. I’ve just never seen…”

“It’s okay.” He nervously smiled, his cheeks almost trembling, as he showed me again. “Please don’t be afraid.”

“I’m trying,“ I admitted. “This is all so weird. Like I’m dreaming.”

“You can touch them if you want.” He opened his mouth wide so that I could touch the tips with my fingers, but that idea freaked me out just a little too much.

“No, that’s okay. I know they’re real.”

He closed his mouth. He looked hurt at first, as if I didn’t trust him. I don’t if that was the case. All I know is one doesn’t just put their hand inside a vampire’s mouth. No matter how flipping hot they are. And he was that. In fact, he wasn’t just hot; he was like a living drug. Just standing close to him was intoxicating. I don’t think he realized just how beautifully intense he was. He wasn’t trying to hit on me, I don’t think, or using some kind of supernatural power to influence my emotions. No, this was me, completely enamored by this boy whom I barely knew but wanted to know much more. My thoughts flashed to what my mom had said about good girls making mistakes and that seemed to break the spell he was unconsciously weaving.

“I better check on mom,“ I said. “We had a fight.”

“I know,“ he said. “I heard her talking to my uncle in the backyard. That’s how I knew you were alone, so I came over.”

“You wanted to be alone with me?” I asked.

“Yes.”

I thought I was going to cry. No boy had ever said that to me before. “Why?“ I asked.

“What do you mean, why?”

“Why do you want to be alone with me?”

“Be-cause I like you. You’re bright, and fun, sweet…beautiful.”

Again, another first. A couple boys had said I was pretty before, but I’d never been beautiful. “You mean that?” I asked, dreading the possibility this was another of his just kidding moments.

He smiled. “Yes, I do.”

I wanted to tell him how beautiful I thought he was, but something inside was warning me no. This was going too fast. Way too fast. The first time we spoke was last night, and here it was not even twenty four hours later and we were having a personal conversation in my bedroom that danced around being flirty. This couldn’t be real. This had to be something else. If something felt too good to be true, that meant it usually was.

He seemed to detect my uneasiness; to know I was having a war within myself, and so he did what I’d never seen a boy do…ever. He retreated to his corner with no questions asked. “Well, hey look,” he said. “I know your mom will be back soon and you’ll want to try and see what can be worked out. I hope everything goes all right. I’ll be around later if you want to talk about it. I’ll count the stars until you get there.”

He gave me a little wink that was so endearing I wanted to implore him to stop being so damn cute. But I didn’t. Instead I just winked back and watched him leave. It was easy to remember this wasn’t going to be the usual kind of friendship when his way of leaving was right out the window. Literally. I guess he just didn’t want to run into mom, because moments later, she was at my bedroom door with tears in her eyes. She didn’t say a word, and neither of us said we were sorry. Instead we just stood there looking at each other until she reached out to hug me. I let her because I knew it would make her feel better. It made me feel better, too.

To be continued…

 

“Vampire Boys Of Summer” 2018 Paul D Aronson. All Rights Reserved.

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Monday Morning At The Springtime Cafe (short story / flash fiction)

It’s Monday morning and I’m sitting at the Springtime Cafe once again, watching all the A.M. people get a kick start to their day. Coffee, danishes, breakfast, conversation, whatever one needs to begin is right here. There’s even a duo set up with their acoustic guitars in the corner playing a cute little Ingrid Michaelson song. Several waitresses move about, taking orders and offering their own voices to the conversations at the various tables and booths. This morning I spot two of them right away.

Mags, or Maggie for long, is a middle aged lady, perhaps 40 or so, but she moves through the place like she’s twenty-five. She has blond hair, from which I can spot a few grays, though I never try to look that close. She gets picked on about that enough by some of the regular guys who come in and perch at one of her tables while awaiting their carpool. Of course she usually just shoots them down with a look from her steely, gray eyes. If that doesn’t work she has a tone to her voice that might remind you of your mom telling you a whipping is coming. For this reason alone, I can’t help but like her.

The other waitress is just as likable, a little more bubbly perhaps, because of her age. If I had to guess she’s about 30, maybe a few years younger. If Mags acts and moves around like a younger woman, then her co-worker flies around the room like a college girl late for class. Her name is May, and perhaps her parents should have been scolded for naming their child Maybelline, but she too made the best of the jokes and cajoling from the guys who frequented the cafe, some of them drawn indoors by the sight of her alone.

I speak from experience here. I myself was just tooling down the street on the way to a cubicle job I hated when I looked over and saw the brunette waitress through the window of the cafe. Her hair was long then, falling over her shoulders and slightly down her back. From the street, I saw her smile at a customer, and from that day I knew I would want her smile to be at the start of my morning for the rest of my life. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but as if on cue she arrives at my table, while I sit here like a dumbfounded idiot watching her approach and jotting it down. If I drew instead of writing about her, she may take more notice, but as it is I’m just another guy, maybe a teacher at the local college, working on a thesis or grading papers while waiting for his coffee.

“Still at it,” she asks, as she steps up to the table, the soles of her white shoes tapping lightly as if a near perfect dance routine had come to a temporary stop.

“Yeah,” I sigh with a smile and fall in love again for the tenth time this morning.

NaNoWriMo, here I come….

Uh oh, here we go with another attempt at National Novel Writing Month. Though I don’t believe i will be as successful as I was last year due to time constraints, but I’m not here to win. I’m here to write. I doubt I will be able to complete the 50k words that NaNoWriMo considers a win, but if I’m lucky I’d like to be able to do at least half that.

I am trying to challenge myself a little this year by writing in a point of view I am not totally comfortable with. Most of my books or long form stories are told in the first person, so I’m going to try and toss that out the window this year. Wish me luck.

My title this year is tentatively called “Perhaps, Mina.” If I had to classify it, I plan for it to be a paranormal romance, though I’m hoping it will have some other elements to it as well. We’ll have to see where the characters take me. The story will start off with one of the sentences from my recent “Seven Days Of Sentences,” but I’m not saying which one….yet. 😉

Now something I won’t be able to do this time around is post what I write everyday. I will still let you know of my progress as much as I can, but I won’t be able to post the story as it’s written, as I did with last year’s entry “Time Of Our Death.” However, when the month is over, depending on how much I’ve actually accomplished, I will get to posting the story I hope. Still, because it has a vampire theme, I may wait until my other long form bloodsucking tale “vampire boys of summer” is complete and posted to avoid confusion between the two. Well just have to wait and see, I suppose.

Ok, so anyway, I hope you all will wish me luck this year, and if you are doing NaNoWriMo as well, feel free to let me know and I’ll try to help cheer you on as well. Have a great Halloween night and I’ll see you in November. 🙂

Perhaps The Rain 

I sat on the passenger side in the truck. The rain came down in torrents, running down the windshield. She didn’t care to use the wipers, but instead let the rivulets of rain hide the fact we were sitting alone in her boyfriend’s truck in the parking lot of his work. We’d come to pick him up so we could all grab a bite to eat once he was off for the evening, but something was different than usual. Perhaps it was the rain. Or maybe it was her perfume filling up the interior of the cab as we waited. The scent of it was sweet and inviting, and filled my mind with images of her getting ready to pick me up, walking into the spray of perfume,feeling it lightly caress her then naked body. A body I hadn’t really thought much about except in secret thoughts, though I’d always found her attractive.
She’d always been off limits. We were friends. Nothing more. She couldn’t want a boy like me when she had him, the typical college frat boy, all beer and muscles, whereas I was the thin typical geek boy girls always liked to have around as a friend and confidante. Tonight however, she was confiding something else to me and I barely heard her, as lost as I was in my own thoughts.
“Sometimes I wish I wasn’t with him,” she said. “Have you ever felt that way about someone?”
For a moment I didn’t realize there was a question there, then she leaned forward and made eye contact, which made me nervous. I hung my head slightly and wouldn’t look at her. “No, not really. Maybe once long time ago, but I haven’t had many relationships other than friendship, you know.”
She nodded and smiled. “I sometimes wonder what it would be like with someone else.”
I dared to look up. “And?” I asked, feeling there was more to her statement.
“You’ve never tried to hit on me.” It was spoken as a statement, but I felt there was a question intended.
“What?”
“In all the time we’ve known each other, you never once put a move on me. Why is that? Do you think I’m ugly or something?”
I smiled. “No, you’re not ugly.” This was a true sentiment. She was far from being unattractive. Beautiful brown eyes, high cheekbones belying a Native American heritage, long dark hair that I’d always wanted to run my fingers through. Lips, thin and moist, from her adorable habit of licking them nearly every time she spoke to me.

“You’re beautiful. You’ve always been that way.”
“Then why is this the first time you’re telling me?”
“Maybe we shouldn’t be talking about this here.” I looked up at her boyfriend’s workplace. He would be coming out soon. 
“You’re right. We shouldn’t.”
She started the truck. 
“What are you doing?” 
“We’re going someplace else.”
“You’re going to leave him here stranded?”
She seemed to think about it for a moment, then turned the engine off. She reached across me, her hand brushing against my leg on its way to the glove box. She opened the box, pulled out a sticky notepad and jotted something on it. She tore the little note off and stuck it to the steering wheel. Then she opened up her door and danced out into the rain. 
I took a quick look at the note. It read, “You never kissed me in the rain.”
I opened up the passenger door and stepped out into evening shower.
2017 Paul D Aronson. 

Orchard House Part 64: The Heart Of Everything

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Note: Wow, here we are at the end. What a journey it has been, and if you have made it this far, then thank you for tagging along with Matthew and Summer. So, here we go, the last chapter of the novel. Hope you enjoy!

Part 64: The Heart Of Everything

Standing at the side of the altar, facing all these people, most of whom I didn’t know, was a bit unnerving. The church was filled to near capacity, which wasn’t a huge feat since it was a little building, but I smiled enough to fill up the rest of the room, anticipating the arrival of my bride. My head couldn’t help but think of every bad scenario it could: she had changed her mind, cold feet, left standing alone again. My heart, however, told me this was not so. Summer would be here just as she promised. Someone had closed the sanctuary doors while I had been in the back with the preacher and Edward, but now they opened to reveal the bridesmaids and ushers. I didn’t know any of the girls as they walked down the aisle, their arms linked with the young men who escorted them. The ushers I recognized as the remaining members of the street party band, and I made a mental note to myself that if my music critic career ever took off again I would be sure to write about the coolest street band ever.

Beside me, Edward remembered he was out of place. I guess every wedding needs a hiccup or two. He hastily excused himself and made his way to the sanctuary doors, trying to stick to the wall so he wouldn’t be a distraction. He needn’t have worried. Everyone’s eyes were on the beautiful young men and women walking down the aisle to the acoustic strains of ‘Whiter Shade of Pale.’

Then there was Edward, finally in place, escorting his daughter, the maid of honor, down the aisle. Helen looked radiant, and I wondered where in the world they had gotten all these matching gowns on short notice. This had to be the hastiest put together wedding ever, and if it got pulled off, then Helen and her helpers should start a new business as emergency wedding planners. She and Edward, her Gunboats, came down the aisle, and when her eyes looked over at me, I smiled as if she were my own mother come to see her boy on his happiest day. And then, I looked to the back of the church as everyone stood and the acoustic guitar played a variation of the bridal march.

She came down the aisle proudly escorted by her father. Her eyes nervously looked around at all the people and I silently whispered, ‘keep your eyes on me’ so she wouldn’t stumble or falter. As if hearing my voice in her head, she looked at me with those beautiful brown eyes and allowed Earl to lead her. My own eyes were permanently locked on her, my smile threatening to infect the whole room with my joy. No feeling in the world could come close to the sight of Summer walking down the aisle to join me. As we both came around to join the preacher in front of the flowered gazebo I still could not tear my eyes away. I wanted this moment permanently ingrained in my eyes so that when I went to bed every night I’d still see my bride standing there, the most beautiful girl in the room forever.

The wedding was not rehearsed beforehand, so we followed the preacher’s lead every step of the way. From the lighting of the unity candles, to us staring teary eyed at each other during our nuptial song, a tender yet thankfully wordless version of ‘Still Got The Blues,’ to the exchanging of borrowed rings, to the pledging of our vows before God and man. I said “I do” with the voice of a man happy and proud to have reached this moment with the most wonderful woman he’d ever known. She softly spoke her “I do”, not because she was nervous or unsure, but because for her it was as a whisper directly in my ear, a pledge and promise for me alone, never to be said to another man. In that moment, she became mine alone for the rest of eternity, and I became hers. When the preacher said I could kiss the bride, it was no ordinary kiss. It filled up every fiber of my being, washing over me like a flood of happiness, and though I knew all eyes were on us, it was as if we were alone, standing on a mountaintop to let our love shine down on everyone lost in the valley below. When we finally parted, and the preacher turned us to face the crowd gathered to witness, he introduced us as man and wife, Matthew and Summer Dean. The rest as they say was icing on the cake.

I looked over at Summer. “Are you ready, Mrs. Dean?”

She smiled, and I saw the happy tears in her eyes as everyone stood and applauded our new married designation. “I’m ready, Matty, “ she replied, and we stepped off the dais to make our way, hand in hand proudly up the aisle, no longer two individuals alone in the world, but one living breathing union of love. We rushed to our waiting car, which someone had decorated with streamers and soda cans. It wasn’t lost on us that the cans were either root beer or crème soda. Shaving crème spelled ‘Just Married’ on the trunk and ‘Forever Love’ on the hood. Someone also had put Vaseline on the door handles so they would be hard to open, and as we fumbled with it, we were bombarded with bubbles and confetti. With Summer squealing delightfully next to me, I got the door open as a car full of helium balloons came tumbling out the door at us. On each one someone had taken a marker and written ‘Matthew and Summer Happily Ever After.’ We watched them take to the air like wishes on a dream.

We scrambled to get in the car and with a wave to friends old and new, drove out of the parking lot honking the horn, dragging noisy cans behind us. “We’ll come back for your car,“ I told her.

“I’m not worried, “ she replied, laying her head over on my shoulder. “Where are we going anyway?”

“We’re going home.”

She raised her head up. “I think you’re going the wrong way. There’s nothing but Orchard House down there.”

“I know.”

She looked at me, a look of bewilderment on her face. “Okay, so…”

“Orchard House is our home now… sort of.”

“What do you mean?”

“You want to stay, don’t you?”

“Yes. You know I do.”

“Well then, how would you feel about managing a bed and breakfast inn for the nicest bunch of people we know?”

“Are you serious?”

I smiled. “Sincerious.”

Summer hugged me, and let out a loud cat call similar to the first day we rode down the road together with her shouting ‘life is a highway’ from the top of her lungs. I turned off the road and headed up the long gravel drive to Orchard House.

 

Alexander Graham Bell is credited as saying, ‘When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.’ If that is true, then the open door of Orchard House removed the regrets and caused us to look beyond ourselves, our own hang-ups and wants, and see that which waited for us behind its doors. We arrived at Orchard House as strangers and left as husband and wife. There is no greater gift that could have been given to us than the true love we found.

In the beginning, I thought it best to keep the location of Orchard House a secret, for fear others would discover the place that had become so special to me But now I know that is not fair. That would be the same as denying someone the chance to fall in love and be loved, or to live and breathe in the open air. Orchard House is for all who would seek healing, for all who desire love, and wish for a better life in the hope of another. In your journey for hope or absolution, whatever the case may be, it is my wish that you would at the very least think of us, and all those who have come before you, wanting more than anything to be loved like never before, and with those thoughts seek what is missing in your life. Who knows, it may lead you down a country road, past apple trees and the scent of honeysuckles, to end at Orchard House and the heart of everything. If that should happen…well then, I guess we’ll see you soon.

+++
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.


 It has been such fun sharing this novel with you. I hope you have enjoyed the journey! 

Orchard House Part 63: Waiting For The Bride

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Note: Here’s the second post for today. I’m really feeling strange, as if I’m sendin my kid out into the world on his own. Join me tomorrow morning for the final chapter of this novel. Somebody bake me a cake 😉

Part 63: Waiting For The Bride

I went out to the car to grab my tux and noticed there was now a small truck parked beside us. An elderly woman stood outside the passenger side talking to her granddaughter, who usually was selling lemonade at this hour. The driver got out and walked over to me. He pumped my hand vigorously. “Thank you,” I said. “Thank you both.”Gunboats smiled. “See son, I told you life is so much better outside the trench.”

I grinned ear to ear. “Yes, it is.”

The man pointed towards the church. Two ladies had now come out and were wrapping little white bells around the porch railing with red ribbon. “Sure glad you followed my advice,” he said.

“It wasn’t just yours. It seems everyone and everything was steering us in this direction. If not for Orchard House…no, let’s not think of that…let’s just say today I’m completely changed and perfectly happy.”

“No son, you won’t be that until she says I do.”

I smiled. “Speaking of which…would you do me the honors and be my best man?”

“The honor would be all mine. Been a long time since I been in a wedding. Hope it’s habit forming.” He pointed across the parking lot. Several other people had come out the front door, as if they had been inside helping decorate. I recognized two of the people right away – the boy from the street party band and his blonde braided girlfriend. They were loving it up on the steps of the church, arms around each other, staring into each other’s eyes like younger versions of Summer and I. Gunboats smiled. “You need to make sure that boy catches the garter.”

I grinned. “I don’t know, I may want to keep that for myself.”

He laughed. “Why have the garter when you can have the woman?“ he replied. Looking over at Helen and Twyla, he said, “You gals ready to go get dressed for a wedding?” He looked back at me. “We’ll see you shortly, Matthew. You better get dressed yourself. You only have an hour or two of freedom before the ladies are ready to get this show on the road. I imagine even now they are calling everybody to tell them the wedding is on.” As if to say this was true, the church bell in the steeple began to ring.

“Thank you, Gunboats, “ I said.

He smiled. “Please, it’s Edward.”

“Excuse me?”

“My name is Edward. Not many folks call me Gunboats anymore.”

“Oh, ok then. Edward it is. Thank you, Edward.”

The man smiled and nodded. “Our pleasure,” he replied. He got ready to get in the truck, then stopped. “You still got that envelope?”

“Yes.”

“Did you look at everything? Read the papers?”

“No, you told me I would know when the time came for that.”

He smiled. “It’s time.” Then he was in the truck and starting it up. I stood there watching them drive away. The envelope was in one of my bags. I quickly opened the car and rummaged for it. Finding the envelope, I nearly tore it open. There were a few papers there I had already read, but there was one that had been sealed in its own smaller envelope that had my name written across it. It had been tempting the several times I had seen it before, but I had fought it, thinking to myself when Gunboats had wanted me to read it, he would tell me. I carefully tore the top and peered inside, pulling out a typed sheet of paper. At the top it read: Contract for Management of Orchard House.

I was mulling over whether to go into the church and change, when another truck pulled into the lot. Earl’s familiar face was behind the wheel. He practically jumped out once he was parked. I walked over to him and shook his hand.

“Glad you could make it, I know it’s short notice.”

“I wouldn’t miss it, Matthew, but…”

“But what?”

“Are you sure she’d want me to walk her down the aisle?”

I smiled. “Yes, I’m sure.”

“I just found her – I’m not sure I want to be giving her away.”

“Consider it a lifetime loan then.”

He smiled and patted me on the back. “You know, I can already tell you’re going to be a better husband than I was.” He looked up to the sky and its white billowing clouds as if he were peering straight into heaven. “I hope her mother is watching today.”

“I’m sure she’s right here,“ I assured him. “Right next to my own parents.”

He nodded. “Yeah, I believe so too.”

“Well hey Earl, you can go on in. I think I’m going to drive down to the store and change in their restroom. I don’t want to accidentally see the bride before it’s time you know.”

“Alright then. We’ll see you soon.” He gave me a wink. “Don’t make me come and get you with the shotgun.”

I smiled. “No worries there. I’ll be back so fast no one will have time to miss me.”

The bell gave a little tinkle as I walked into the store. Raymond, behind the counter, had just rung someone up. He looked up and raised an eyebrow as if he was surprised to see me. “You better have come to tell me I can close up the store for a few hours as planned.”

“Well, no that wasn’t my intention. I need a place to change into my tux.”

He grinned. “Same thing.” He pointed to a doorway behind him. “Back there. Last door on the left.”

I went to the restroom and shut the door behind me. As I dressed I thought to myself, if someone had told me I would be getting dressed for my own wedding in the bathroom of a little country store a week ago, I would have laughed so hard they’d thought I was crazy. But now, looking at my reflection in the mirror, it was like looking at a different and far happier person. I finished dressing and made a few adjustments at the collar. When I smiled in the mirror, it smiled back as if the little boy inside, lonely and frightened, was finally free to be a man.

By the time I arrived back at the church, the lot was nearly full with cars. We didn’t even know that many people. They must have gone door to door in the community inviting people. Didn’t matter if they knew us or not, hey come to a wedding anyway. People were milling about outside, and the church doors now lay open. The bells had stopped their peal, but the sound of acoustic guitar music drifted outside. Earl came down the steps towards me.

“They aren’t quite ready yet, but Edward and the preacher are in the back waiting on you.”

I nodded. Butterflies flew into my stomach and flitted around. “Okay, thanks.”

Going up the steps, I smiled at those who had gathered for my wedding. I recognized some from the street party, others I didn’t know at all. Still it didn’t matter; they were here to help celebrate, and that was fine by me. Through the foyer and into the sanctuary, I was greeted and congratulated so much that my thank you response became automatic. It seemed everyone we had come in contact with was in attendance. The tubing guy, the boy in the Italian restaurant, the fortune teller, the migrant workers, all nodded and smiled in my direction. I felt like I was walking down the aisle to accept an award or something. Suddenly, someone stood up from one of the seats and planted himself in the aisle in front of me. I froze. For a moment, I didn’t know what to say. Then I smiled and held out my arms. “Brother,“ I whispered, and Eric welcomed my hug like a long lost prodigal. “I’m glad you came.”

“I can already tell this wedding will be different,“ he replied.

“Have you seen her? Have you seen my bride?”

“No, but I see you, and it’s clear she’s the one. Congrats baby brother.” He patted my shoulder. “By the way, this is Ashley.” For another moment, I froze so rigid you’d think there was a snake in front of me, but then he pointed to a young lady sitting on the end of the aisle. I breathed a sigh of relief; it wasn’t THAT Ashley, but another girl I’d never seen before. “We just got engaged. Isn’t that ironic?”

I wasn’t sure if he meant the irony that he too was engaged, or that her name was Ashley, so I smiled and said to her. “Just make it to the wedding and you’ll do fine.” She gave me a weird look, but Eric laughed at her confusion. I stepped around him. “Well, I got to let them know I made it, too,“ I told him.

Moving down the aisle, I saw where the acoustic music was coming from. The street party boy was sitting on the riser and doing a good job of entertaining the crowd while they waited for the ceremony to commence. He went through a whole range of material ; from ‘Wonderful Tonight’ to ‘Lady In Red’, as well as a whole slew of Chris Issak, which I’m not sure, but I think this was the first time I’d heard of ‘Wicked Game’ being played at a wedding. I gave him a nod of my head as I passed him, and went through a door leading me out of the sanctuary, into a side room where Edward and the preacher waited.

“Nervous?” Edward asked.

“Yes, I am.”

“You’ll do fine. Just don’t lock your legs when you see her. Otherwise we could have one of them America’s Funniest Home Videos moments.”

The preacher introduced himself and went over a few things with me. “Do you have your vows?”

“No, sir.”

“Traditional vows ok?”

“Do they have ‘I do’ in them?”

He smiled. “Yes.”

“Better or worse, sickness and health, til death do we part?”

“Yes.”

“That’s the one then.”

“Okay. Who has the rings?”

I froze again. I had forgotten to…

“I do,” Edward said, pulling two silver bands from his pocket. “Hope we’re the same ring size,“ he whispered. I realized he didn’t have his own wedding band on. Instead, he was offering their own to me. “Nothing is going to stop you from getting hitched today, boy.”

“I’ll pay you back or something.”

“Did you look in the envelope?”

“Yes.”

“And?”

“I signed it.”

He smiled. “Well then, looks like you’ve paid me back.”

Earl poked his head through the door. “I think they are ready for you guys to come out,” he said.

“Moment of truth,“ I said.

“Moment of ‘if you smile any bigger your cheeks will hit the wall’ is more like it.”

We went out into the sanctuary, where the teenage guitarist had run out of ideas and was now playing an instrumental, yet slow downed, rendition of ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’. I don’t think anyone noticed it had just become a punk rock wedding.

Part 64: The Heart Of Everything

“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.

Orchard House Part 62: Saying Goodbye

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Note: Wow, we are so close to the end. With two posts today, we’ll see the last post for our daily serial novel arriving tomorrow morning. So, without further delay, here’s our first part for today. Hope you enjoy!

Part 62: Saying Goodbye

We stood by our cars looking back at the face of Orchard House. I took a deep breath so I could have one more sensory overload. Apples, Peaches, Honeysuckle – from this moment I would always associate the scents with this place. I would never catch a whiff again without being mentally transported back. I took in the sights around me. The big white farmhouse with its magnolia tree out front. The vast orchard, populated with apples, peaches, and grapes on the vine. The migrant workers in the field, the visitors picking their own baskets of fruit. The makeshift stage in the field out front, the country store up the road, the sight of the church steeple around the bend. And it was then the vast array of memories came piling up on me at once: Summer’s embarrassing entry in the house, she trying to get me to dance to Kenny Chesney in the kitchen; tubing on the river, eating Italian in the nearby town. First kisses at the Orchard’s edge, streaking like wild teenagers through its center. Making love in every room, creating memories for all time; heartfelt conversations at night, love longing eyes in the morning; walking hand in hand down a path, watching the sunset from a mountaintop, finding her estranged father, forgetting a failure called Ashley; dancing at the street party, making friends of strangers; sleeping outside on our last night, laying in my bed and thinking of her on our first. With this, I turned to her and saw she was already looking at me.“I know,“ she said, as if I had spoken the words aloud. “I feel them, too.”

She leaned into my arms and I folded them around her, pulling her close so she could look up into my eyes. Our last kiss at Orchard House was just as warm and wonderful as the first. I could almost picture this scene, as if I were distant and removed from it, a bystander to the events instead of a participant. Two people standing on a hill, a white farmhouse looking over them like a protective angel. A sign reading “Orchard House”. A kiss speaking volumes of love that could never be fully expressed within the confines of a book. I knew I would write the story, but it wouldn’t be restricted to just Summer and I; it would also be of Gunboats and Hope, Raymond and Helen, Earl and Mary. And though we were told we would be the last to fall in love under her eaves, I had a feeling that others would come after us, and they would add their own chapter to the story of Orchard House.

I drove down the gravel driveway, looking back at the house and the woman who followed me in her own car. Out on the dirt road and up around the bend to the country store we drove, and yet I kept looking back as if were a child leaving the comforts of home for the first time. The country store wasn’t very busy. We parked side by side out front and stepped through the doors the same way. There were some customers milling about, mostly locals doing their morning must have shopping, practicing their right not to drive into town to the Wal-Mart. Two kids at the soda case looked over at us sheepishly smiling, and though Summer didn’t notice them, I gave them a smile. A couple at the back of the store was browsing the various jars of apple butter, and they too looked up at our arrival. With a smile, they went back to what they were doing. I noticed Twyla’s lemonade stand wasn’t set up, but a handmade sign was on the table reading CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS, however ILLNESS had been crossed out and replaced with SOMETHING in small letters overhead. Raymond was helping a young mother close by select the healthiest apples for her brood who hovered nearby. He looked up and flashed us a smile and wave.

“Hello folks,“ he said as he walked by, heading to the counter to ring up the lady’s purchase. “Looks like the home place has done you both a great service.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, as we followed him.

He gave us a friendly smile. “Because you two are absolutely glowing.”

The woman turned around and looked at us. She too couldn’t help but smile. “Just married?” she asked.

“Engaged, “ Summer replied.

“When’s the date?”

“Um…I’m not sure.”

The woman nodded with a smile that you couldn’t have erased off her face, and she looked over at me. “You’re a lucky man, she’s adorable.”

“Yes mam, she is,” I agreed.

As the woman collected her apples and children, she headed out the door, looking back at us with a knowing smile, as if she remembered her own engagement and how she had glowed, too. I looked at Raymond. “So what’s up with Twyla? I asked. “She sick?” I pointed to her empty table.

He laughed a little nervously. “Oh that. No, she’s just creative. Had to take the day off and she didn’t want to disappoint all her customers. I’m closing up for a few hours myself.”

“Oh yeah?” Summer asked. “What for? Is everything alright?”

“Yeah, just some family business to take care of.”

“You’re closing the house today, aren’t you?” she asked.

“In a manner of speaking, yes, I guess we are.”

I pulled the key out of my pocket. “Well, you’ll be wanting this then.”

“Yeah, I reckon so.” He took the offered key and as Summer got hers out, she reluctantly handed it over, too. He smiled. “It has been so nice having ya’ll here,“ he said. “I guess you know you’ve been the talk of the community. Nothing bad, mind you, but it’s been wonderful to see you two falling for each other. I almost feel like a matchmaker. We’ll have to consider a new line of work after this.”

Summer and I both laughed. “It has been wonderful,“ I said. “Thank you for letting us stay.”

“Hey’ you paid,“ he reminded me with a chuckle.

“Yes, but still. You can’t begin to imagine what you and Helen have done for us. Is she around? We’d like to thank her personally.”

He pointed out the front window. “She’s up there at the church with a few ladies. It’s their turn to clean up this week. Feel free to stop in and say bye. I know she’d love to see you, just don’t let her talk you into any of that cleaning stuff.” He leaned forward and added in a whisper, “I love that woman, but she can kill ya with that pine sol.”

We laughed. “Okay will do.” I held out my hand. “It has been a pleasure, Raymond.”

He smiled. “Yes it has. You take care of this little lady, okay?”

“I certainly will,“ I promised, as he shook Summer’s hand as well.

Not contented with a handshake, Summer hugged him. “We’ll miss you, “ she said.

“Not too much, I hope,“ he said.

“Just enough.”

We all shared one last smile, and then taking Summer’s hand in mine, I led her out the door. The bell overhead seemed to make a louder clang as usual as if it too were saying its goodbyes.

“Come on, let’s go say goodbye to Helen,“ I said.

There were two other cars in the parking lot when we pulled in. We parked beside them, and as we got out and looked up at the church steeple, I wondered if it had an actual bell in it, or if the bells we’d heard the other morning was a recording. It certainly had enough room for a real one, and it made me think of an on old movie with a bell ringer pulling on a rope and letting the bells peal out as the end credits roll. I took Summer’s hand and we walked up the front steps. I stopped.

“Remember the first time we were in here?” I asked.

“Yeah,“ she laughed. “We got called down for making out.”

I smiled. “I wanted to propose to you then.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, you know we were in a church. It seemed the time was right.”

“What happened?”

“Well I didn’t have a ring at the time… and I wasn’t sure if you’d say yes.”

She kissed me. “Silly boy.”

“And…I was scared…really terrified of what comes next.”

I reached for the door and opened it. We stepped into the church’s foyer. The sanctuary lay ahead of us and I could hear Helen’s country twang coming from within.

“I guess I understand how you were feeling,“ Summer said. “I get scared too.”

I pushed the door open leading into the sanctuary.

“But it’s okay to be…” She stopped. The sanctuary was not being cleaned at all. It was being decorated. White and red flowers were lined across the backs of the pews. From the ceiling hung white plastic bells wrapped in ribbon. A red runner lay on the carpet leading up to the altar which had a gazebo type trellis sitting in front of it, decorated with wild flowers. Red rose petals were scattered down the aisles. I looked at Summer and squeezed her hand. “Still scared?” I asked.

Her eyes found mine. “No.”

“I’m not scared anymore either.”

She smiled and her eyes seemed to sparkle in the light of the sanctuary.

I took both her hands in mine. “Marry me today, Summer. I don’t want to wait three months, or six, or a year. I want to be your husband right now.”

A tear slid down her cheek. “I want to be your wife right now.” She wiped the tear away with her hand. “But I’ve nothing to wear.”

I smiled reassuringly. “I think maybe Helen has that covered.”

Summer turned to look at the altar and saw Helen coming towards her. “Please tell me there’s a wedding today,“ the woman said.

“Yes mam, there is.”

Her face registered happiness and then a little bit of alarm. “Then we need to get the bride ready.” She took Summer’s hands away from mine. “Come on, girl. Let me show you how us country gals get dolled up for weddings.” She started leading her up the aisle, but then stopped and turned. “And you sir…you ain’t going to get married in your blue jeans. So you better dig that fancy tux out of your luggage and finally put it to proper use.”

I grinned. “Yes, mam.”

Summer looked back at me, her eyes filled with happy tears. As she silently mouthed ‘I love you’ in my direction, I placed my hand over my heart and mouthed back ‘always.’

Part 63: Waiting For The Bride

“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.