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Orchard House Part 46: Street Party

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Part 46: Street Party

As we headed down the gravel drive, I realized we would be parading right past the band on the left, along with everyone seated in the amphitheater benches. I wasn’t used to feeling like I was on display, and once we got alongside people, they started looking. I imagine some wondered if we were celebrities of some kind as we were so overdressed. Most of those seated, and even those who stood at the bottom of the field and out in the road, were dressed as if they just got off from work or had been lounging around the house. With the exception of a few older folks, we were the only ones not in work clothes or jeans. Several ladies wore dresses, but they weren’t nearly as showy as Summer’s outfit. Heads turned on both male and female, and if we wished to truly be noticed as a new couple, we were getting our wish for sure. Feeling like we were walking the gauntlet, Summer squeezed my hand for reassurance. The band went from Stevie Ray to Wet Willie, and a few in the crowd began to dance to the southern boogie. We reached the bottom of the drive and Summer herself began to sway to the music, as the band sang about a street corner serenade of days gone past. Facing me, my beautiful companion tried to get me to dance, but I wasn’t feeling it. It felt like everyone’s eyes were on us. She grabbed my hands and tried to move me.

“Come on, pretend it’s the orchard,” she shouted.

From Wet Willie, the band cut into another danceable boogie number, this one made famous by Little Feat many years ago. I had to give it up to the band, they were playing songs from my era. I finally allowed myself to loosen up and dance a little. Summer moved my hand on her hip, which was in constant motion. It was hard to concentrate on a beat when her hip was against the palm of my hand, and the thin material of her dress made me think of her in more revealing ways.

As we danced to the music, I couldn’t help but look around. This was tense. A few others had begun to dance, letting Summer’s infectious enthusiasm win them over. She was nothing short of inspiring, and soon couples in front of us and behind felt brave enough to shake what their mothers gave them, too. We didn’t go unnoticed by the band either. When their first round of songs was over they dedicated a song to “the swirling lady in red down there.” I couldn’t recall who originally sang it, but the song was an ode to chasing girls and the color candy apple red. Summer ate it up, and giving me a big kiss on the lips whirled away from me and into the crowd, dancing on her own and trying to get others to join in. While guys tried to cut in and be her partner, she quickly turned to find a different partner in that of a child or older woman. Finally she made her way back to me, and at song’s end jumped straight into my arms. For a moment I thought I heard the sound of a hundred guys mumbling “Aw, man…”

“I’m thirsty,” Summer whispered, and we left the circle of dancing for the dirt road where various vendors had set up on one side. “Oh my God, “ Summer exclaimed, spying a booth set up right next to the artist’s village. “Snow Cones!”

I laughed at her excitement. You would have thought she was a kid at a circus. As if to prove me right, she turned to me with a wink in her eye and the swish of her dress, “Can I have one, daddy? Please?”

A few people began to look at us strangely, and I swear some looked like they wanted to string me up from a tree. Perhaps her youthful exuberance had made them think she was a teenager and I was some kind of lecherous old man. Mind you, with her looking like she did in that dress, I was feeling somewhat lecherous indeed. I got her a cherry snow cone, as the band went through a whole array of southern cover tunes. 38 special, Elvin Bishop, Lynyrd Skynyrd. As the Bishop song played, something about fooling around and falling in love, Summer slid up against me to slow dance and share her snow cone. With one hand on her hip and the other around her waist, she swayed so wonderfully beneath my touch, even more so when she passed the shaved cherry ice from her mouth to mine. And even though I knew there must be disapproving eyes upon us, as well as some that were very approving, I didn’t care. It was just Summer and I and everything was alright.

“I see someone is making their own fortunes,” a voice said from behind us after the song was over. We both turned to see the woman who had told our fortune in the Artist Village. “It is nice to see you two so happy. And I see it’s catching on.” She directed our gaze to those around us. Just like it had been in the field, out in the street others were starting to dance. I’m not sure if it was because of us or because now the band was in full Skynyrd mode, but either way it was good to see the celebration of life was catching on. In fact, I had never felt so alive myself. Any other time and you would never have caught me dancing in public and certainly not with a woman as beautiful as Summer.

The fortune teller moved on, and for a moment it seemed as if it was a parade of all the people we had met here flitting by. We saw the young boy from the Italian restaurant in town with a dark haired teenage girl hanging happily on his arm; Danny, the tubing guy, also strolled by us with some of his friends, including several girls wearing identical college team shirts, who seemed to be enjoying his company and attention. He gave me a nod, and Summer a lingering smile, as if he wished any of the girls with him looked half as stunning as my date. I couldn’t help but feel proud she was on my arm and not his. As if keeping with the tubing theme, a couple of the kids from that particular adventure came running up to Summer to say hi and she graciously told them all how pretty they looked, as if she were the big sister none of them had. I smiled thinking how sweet that was of her. She was so friendly and enthusiastic with everyone she met, so unlike any girl I had ever known. This was even more evident when several of the Latino workers strolled by with their dates and families. They recognized us with a smile and a wave, and she began to talk to them in Spanish, paying particular attention to the young men’s wives and children. They were just as enthusiastic to speak to her in their native tongue, and it appeared the men were introducing us to their families, though I couldn’t follow it all. Before moving along, we all shook hands, with Summer hugging several of the women. And yet we weren’t the only ones who were friendly with them. I watched as they moved through the crowd, and as I was amazed by how welcome they were made in this community. Back home in the city, everyone was so closed off in their three feet of space, with people of other nationalities sticking to their own race, and rarely stepping outside their ethnic group. But here in this tight knit community, everyone accepted everyone, no matter who you were, and it was awesome to be a part of that for a while. Even Summer and I, who may have caused a stir of social conscious scandal, were just two people in love and nothing more. Here we were encouraged to be ourselves or who we always wanted to be. Here it seemed everyone liked everyone without prejudice, and the order of the day was to have fun. As if to prove that thought, when the next song started Summer pointed to the stage.

“Hey look!” she shouted.

The guy who had been singing, a young man of about eighteen or nineteen was now joined up on the stage by a familiar face: the young girl in the orchard who had gushed about her boyfriend’s band playing the party. With her blonde hair flying wild and the biggest smile on her face she joined her beau for a cute rendition of the southern rock duet, “Don’t Misunderstand Me.” Summer and I watched the young couple as they bounced their lines back and forth. My date remarked on how cute they were and I had to agree. They reminded me of us if we had only just got out of high school. If we had been back in the cities we’d come from, the kids wouldn’t have even known this kind of music. They were more accustomed to rap and hip hop and modern pop hits, rather than blues, southern rock, and down home boogie. It seemed like a different world here, where everyone, even the kids, were different from anyplace we’d been. After the song was over, the girl returned to the crowd, and to her mother, who we realized was Florence, the church cleaning lady. Summer took my hand and dragged me over to them. Coming up behind mother and daughter, she congratulated the young girl on her performance.

Florence, beamed proudly, and said to us, “So, the Church love birds have moved out into the open. It’s nice to see two people so perfect for each other.”

“Thanks,” Summer replied. “I feel like this is our coming out party.”

“Perhaps it is. Hopefully soon you two will make your love even more official,” she said with a wink. I don’t think either of us knew how to reply to that, even as Florence added with a knowing smile, “You look dressed for it.”

“I’m feeling dressed for dancing,” Summer replied, looking over at me, as if to say, hey, let’s get out of here. I think ,maybe she was nervous with what Florence had been skirting around, so I allowed her to lead me back into the crowd to dance to “giving it up for your love,” another danceable boogie and blues tune from my youth. With each song, it seemed the band was playing the soundtrack of my teenage years. It was strange, but I was enjoying every minute of it, as I felt like I was a teenager again dancing with Summer. The fact she knew the songs too put the fantasy in my head that I was dancing with the prettiest girl in my school at the prom and no one could stop the promise of true love from happening. As if to cement that notion, the band next played Springsteen’s “The Ties That Bind” and I found myself swirling Summer around me. We both erupted into childlike smiles and laughter, having the time of our life.

As songs changed, we needed another break again, so we retreated to the vendor’s area where we bought a couple Churros from a portable booth being manned by a pleasant Spanish couple who smiled when I nodded my head in agreement at their vendor sign which read “Best Churros ever!”

Moving down the line of vendors, we came to one whom we knew very well, as I had a case of her unopened lemonade in the trunk of my car. Twyla sat at a long table selling her summertime concoction and looking to make a good profit at it as well. To either side of her, sitting in portable lawn chairs were Helen and Raymond, leaving me to wonder who was manning the store. When I said something about that, they both grinned. “Closed up early,” Raymond replied. “Can’t miss the street party, even if I’m too tired for dancing.”

Helen smiled at the sight of us. “You two look ready for dancing, or getting hitched. I’m not sure which.”

“I didn’t have anything else to wear,” I answered. “And anyway, when Summer dresses this sexy, I can’t show up next to her in bib overalls.”

She laughed heartily. “Oh no, you can’t! Well, you are definitely the most gorgeous, exciting couple here tonight, that’s for sure. You’ll be the community talk for months.”

The band slipped into a John Mellencamp song and I could feel Summer next to me itching to dance again. Though I was starting to get tired, Helen gave me this look that said, you better go boy, the night is wasting. So, with a friendly farewell we left our new friends and reentered the dancing field as the band moved from Mellencamp to John Fogerty. The song, “Rock n’ Roll Girls” got us moving once more, and I found myself looking back on the street party as something very special. In a way, with seeing everyone we had come in contact with during our stay here, this night almost seemed like a last hurrah before we had to leave this wonderful place behind. Swaying to a couple slower numbers made famous by Steve Miller and Kenny Loggins, Summer laid her head on my shoulder, the music forever ingrained in our heads just as surely as our love was forever nestled in our hearts.

Forever. What a thought that was. And what a night this was shaping to be in our memory.

Part 47: Wonderful Tonight

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

Orchard House Part 43: Church Confession

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Part 43: Church Confession

I looked up and saw Summer coming down the aisle towards me. She wasn’t in a wedding gown, but she didn’t need to be. She was just as beautiful as any bride could wish to be. She wasn’t coming towards me as my wife to be, but as someone I loved. Yes, I knew in that moment, seeing her walk towards me, concern on her face, longing in her eyes, and my name wordlessly on her lips, that I loved her more than anything under all the heavens. “Are you okay?” she asked, stepping up to me, worry on her face.

“You know, I was going to get married in a church like this. Had a great big foolish idea of how wonderful it would be to see my bride coming down the aisle towards me.”

She moved to me and gave me a hug. “I’m sorry, Matthew. I know it must be hard to forget.”

“It is. No matter how I feel about her now, it keeps coming back to haunt me.”

Still hugging me, she asked, “What can I do to help?”

I gently pulled away from her. “Tell me why she left me standing there waiting.”

She took a breath and seemed to be pondering how to answer. “Perhaps she was terrified of belonging to someone else. Perhaps she was scared of how life would change for her or her new responsibilities to a spouse.”

I nodded, turning it over in my head.

“It could be she didn’t feel as deeply as you,” she continued. “Sometimes there is one that loves more than the other. It shouldn’t be that way, but it happens. Or it could be she’d been playing at love and not really feeling it, and when the time came to prove it, she could not.”

I didn’t know what to say. All these things Summer was telling me could have been right.

“Or maybe she just wasn’t the right bride,” she said.

I looked up. “Are you suggesting something?”

“Are you?” she countered.

For a moment I didn’t know how to answer that. I sat down on the edge of the raised podium that served as the church’s altar. “”Summer…I have something I have been trying to confess ever since…well, just ever since.”

“Okay,” she replied nervously.

I patted the spot next to me. “Please sit down.”

. She sat down next to me and folded her hands in her lap.

“When I came here to this area, to Orchard House, I didn’t know what was next for me. I had failed as a writer, a music critic, and a groom. I felt so worthless, unimportant, unwanted. You name it. All the negative things a person could pick to describe themselves, I was feeling it. For me Orchard House was…the end of the road, so to speak. I certainly didn’t expect to meet anyone here. In fact, I never thought I would meet anyone anywhere after Ashley, and as a result I have spent every minute here with you just waiting for the great big disappointment to come.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re too good to be true, Summer. Things don’t happen like this to me. A beautiful girl with happiness on her shoulder doesn’t come waltzing into my life just when I’m feeling like there is no sunshine left. And yet you did.” I took a deep breath. “I didn’t believe in much when I arrived here, and now miraculously, because of you, I believe in everything. I believe a man doesn’t have to wallow in self-pity. I believe a woman doesn’t need a father’s love in order to gain a man’s love. I believe Orchard House is a magical, eye opening, heart convincing place. I believe everything comes to everybody in its own time. I believe I can’t bear the thought of you leaving. I believe…no, I know…that I love you more than I have ever loved before, more than I believed it was possible for me to love, and I can’t go another day unless I know that you are mine.”

She unfolded her hands and reached for my own. “Look at me, Matthew.” She took my hands and compelled me to look in her eyes, those beautiful brown eyes. “I have always been yours,” she said.

“Summer, you had me at, they call me the breeze.”

She smiled and it lit up her whole face. “Matthew, the first day I met you, I knew you were something special. And I think you thought the same of me because you didn’t let me leave, even though we were both embarrassed as hell about the mix up.”

“And the towel thing,” I added.

She laughed. “And the towel thing. But the truth is we both knew there was something about the other. Something that neither of us wanted to let go. And as I grew closer to you, I tried to tell myself this was just another crush and any minute now it would be over. You would be like all the rest since my father, and leave. Instead you begged me to stay. That’s when I knew I was falling.”

“When you asked me what happened with Ashley, I thought at first you just wanted the dirt. To hear something dramatic that happened to someone else. But then I realized that wasn’t your reason. You wanted to know because you cared about me. You wanted to know what had crushed and broken me so. And in the beginning I said to myself why? You can’t heal me, I’m too broken. But I was wrong. You did heal me. And more than that, you put me back together better than I was in the first place. And once that happened, once we danced on the edge of the orchard to ‘still got the blues’ I knew I was never going to feel blue again..and more than that…Oh Summer…I…I love you. I love you so much I can’t bear the thought of you ever…”

She let go of my hands and nearly leapt onto my lap, wrapping her arms about me, her lips meeting mine in a way she had never kissed me before. We had shared plenty intimate moments in our days together here, and many times her lips had hungered for my own, but not like this. This was a kiss that revealed every longing of her heart, every happiness she had ever wished for. And when our lips parted she told me exactly what the kiss already had. “I love you too, Matthew.”

We embraced again, this time getting to our feet so we could wrap our arms around each other tighter. I tried to tell her I loved her again, but her lips opened against mine, shutting out any words that may have come. But that was okay, because words were no longer necessary in this moment, only the desire and longing, the love and affection, the heart of everything pounding within us so much it threatened to explode into the world for everyone to know that this kind of joy was…

“Didn’t I tell you to remember you are in church?”

Startled, we came out of our embrace like kids pulling their hands out of the cookie jar Mama told them to stay out of. Florence stood there with a mock scolding look. We couldn’t help but giggle.

. “Sorry about that,” I said. “Guess I got carried away. I’m crazy happy, because I confessed to this beautiful woman that I love her.”

“Well, it’s about time, fella. I knew it when you came through the door.”

When we left the church, it had stopped raining. The sun was out and shining again as if it was a brand new day. For me I felt like it was. With Summer holding my hand, I stepped off the porch and went down the steps of the church. Florence stood in the doorway smiling at us, as if she had helped us in some way. Perhaps she had. If she hadn’t let us in out of the rain, if I hadn’t stood in that church looking down that aisle at Summer walking towards me, I may not have been able to confess how much I loved her. Funny, how things work out like that. It’s like here everyone we have met have provided tiny pieces of the puzzle that make up Summer and I. It made me wonder what piece would come next, but then I looked out at the sea of cars that were now starting to line the road.

“You lovebirds better hurry. Pretty soon you won’t even be able to walk up and down the road.”

We smiled at Florence and gave her a little wave. “See you tonight,” Summer told her, and we walked back out to the road, hoping we could get back to the house before the street party began.

Part 44: The Invitation

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

Orchard House Part 35: Kiss And Drive

Note: Today it’s Two For Tuesday, and so we will celebrate with two parts of the story, instead of the usual one. Not only that, but these two parts fit together in a nice way, and I don’t feel like making my readers wait a full day for the second half. So, here we go with part one of our double post. I’ll post the second one here soon.

As always, if you are new to Orchard House and need to catch up, click the link below to go to the main page and table of contents. Thanks for reading!

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

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Part 35: Kiss And Drive

The hike down the mountain seemed much shorter than when we hiked up. Perhaps it was because we were going downhill the whole way, or that we were alternating between running and limping, in an effort to reach the bottom before it was too dark to see the path. After the clearing at the halfway mark, night descended on us like a dark shroud. Holding hands to stay together and slowing up our pace, we hiked the rest of the way with only the moonlight and stars in the sky to guide us. Reaching the car, we looked back to where we had been. You couldn’t see the top of the mountain or the rocks that dominated it, as it was too dark now. I think we were both thinking of our time up there and how beautiful the sky had been, how wonderful being close to each other was. A part of me wished we had stayed up there in that old stone house and cuddled up in the floor next to the hearth. I could picture it in my head, she and I, arms and legs entwined, lips pressed together, bodies drowning in the heat of the moment.

“You okay?” Summer asked.

Startled from my reverie, I tried to regain my composure. “Yeah. Sorry. I was lost in thought.”

“I got a penny,” she said.

“Just thinking of you and me.”

“Good?”

“Yeah, very.”

She slid up close to me and I was surprised how easily my arm went around her, how natural she felt by my side, her hip touching mine. “I’m glad,” she said, nuzzling against my neck. I kissed her on her forehead and waited to see if this tender moment between us would pass. It didn’t.

The drive home to Orchard House started off in silence. It had been a long day up in the mountains, but we both agreed it had been wonderful. For me, sharing the sunset together was something that was ours alone to share. I’d never watched the sun set with anyone before, and I knew no matter how many more I would witness from this day forth, none could compare to this one. The warm moment at the foot of the trail afterwards seemed to cap off the day. We both were contented and at peace with ourselves, and each other.

After a few minutes of riding in silence, her hand holding mine in her lap, she reached for the radio, flipping through channels, seeking out some tunes to fit the mood. She settled on an indie station, coming in faint here in the mountains, but still clear enough to hear the acoustic folk pop song playing. The singer could be heard lamenting the girl he’d left behind, and his voice, caught somewhere between Roy Orbison and John Waite, expressed his regret.

“With the wind in her hair, she whispers to me,

This is the last first kiss I’ll ever believe;

There’s always been you to set me free,

With the wind in her hair, she whispers to me…Don’t go…”

Summer sighed. “This song is so sad, but I like it.”

I agreed. Despite his apparent sorrow, you couldn’t help but get reeled in by his emotion. “He’s in love with you,” I said.

She turned to me. “What?”

I caught myself and laughed. “I mean, the guy singing. He’s in love with the girl. That’s why it’s so sad.”

“So when you’re in love with someone, you’re sad?”

“No, you shouldn’t be. But he seems to have messed up and left her behind.”

She turned to look out the window. “Hope he finally got it worked out.”

“Yeah, me too.”

The DJ piped in, cutting the song off as it was fading out. “Alright, that was a mild blast from the past, a one hit wonder of say, five years ago, The Wind In Her Hair, by Dan Marsten. Hey, did you know Danny grew up only about ten miles from here over in Sunset Fields. Small world, huh? Well, hey if you want another one hit wonder, but just a little more upbeat and a heck of a lot happier, check out this real blast from 1979, Phil Seymour and Precious To Me…”

I grinned as the next song began, jangly guitars and a definite Beatles influence. “I had this record when I was a kid.”

Summer smirked. “Why does that not surprise me?”

She lay her head on the window sill, and closed her eyes, the wind tousling her hair. It made me think of the sad song we had just heard. In that moment, I believe I realized I didn’t ever want to leave her, that I was going to want her by my side forever. It’s hard to look back and pinpoint the exact moment the realization hits you that you have fallen in love. We can narrow it down, possibly recall the day, but the precise moment when that warning bell goes off in your head is often lost.

“So, still think I can’t kiss and drive?”

She raised her head up and looked at me, a mischievous smile playing across her face. “I don’t think you can.”

“I’m waiting, “ I teased.

With that dare in place, she leaned towards me, sliding across the seat so her leg was resting right against mine. She reached up her hand and turned my face from the road to her. Her soft kiss sent pleasant chills up my spine. I tried not to close my eyes as I felt myself give in to the butterfly rush that came with the touch of her lips. It didn’t really matter though, eyes opened or closed, because I was no longer looking at the road at all. Good thing it was a straight and lazy stretch of pavement, otherwise we would have been over in a ditch somewhere. Summer opened her mouth against mine and I felt the car starting to sway from its course. I righted it the best that I could without taking her kiss from me. She smiled, and the laugh that followed almost seemed to echo in my mouth. We pulled away, both of us giggling like teenagers on a Friday night after a high school football game that neither of us watched.

“Not too shabby, “ she said. “I guess you can kiss and drive.”

Looking ahead now at the road , I found myself grinning ear to ear. “I can’t let a dare go unchallenged.”

“Hmmm, I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Uh-oh,” I said. “What are you thinking?”

She didn’t answer, but instead just kissed my cheek, keeping her thoughts to herself. This worried me, because if there was one thing I learned from Ashley, it’s when women keep their thoughts to themselves trouble is not far behind.

On the way home we stopped off in town and ate some tacos at a little Mexican restaurant chain. I half expected to see the migrant workers we kept seeing in the orchard, but they weren’t there. Summer reasoned that real Latinos wouldn’t be caught in a fake taco shop, as she called it. As for ourselves, it didn’t matter to us if the food wasn’t true Mexican fare, we were starving.

When we finally got back to the house we realized because it had been closed up all day in the summer heat, the air had become quite stuffy. We went from room to room turning on every AC unit we could find. Then we retired outside, where we sat on the side porch to await the cooling down of the house. I sat in the porch swing and Summer settled herself onto my lap. The night was quiet except for the sound of crickets and cicadas. Every now and then, we would hear the distant croak of a frog from the creek bed across the road from the drive.

“I could so get used to this,” Summer said.

I put my arm around her and gently squeezed. “I already am.”

Part 36: Dance Naked

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

Orchard House Part 34: Sharp Top

New to Orchard House? click the link below to go to the table of contents. Hope you have a pleasant stay.

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

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Part 34: Sharp Top

If the clearing had been a place to rest before the hard climb, then our kisses must have been the batteries to recharge us. The rest of the hike took close to two hours and we pushed ourselves to the limit to achieve the rocky summit. As brush and dirt slowly turned to rocks and bare leafless trees, the trail wound us up and around outcroppings that in older days must have been hard to navigate without the clear marked trail we had. As we reached the top, we noticed just how popular a spot this was. Varied groups of people had also made the hike and were milled about on the rocks enjoying a 360 degree view of the valley below. Kids jumped from rock to rock in a carefree exploration that could never be achieved behind a video game console. Couples leaned on each other sharing quiet reflective moments, filled with a sense of wonder about the world around them and how the open skies were truly the limit, not only here on this mountaintop, but for the rest of their lives. An elderly couple, whom I found hard to believe to have made the hike, sat on a bench outside an old weather worn cabin that had been built ages ago among the huge rock outcroppings. A peek inside showed us it was empty except for an open fireplace. The elderly man spoke up. “It’s a good place to get out of the wind and rain when it picks up.”

“Yeah, I imagine. How long did it take you to make the hike?”

“Oh, I don’t know. “ He looked over at his wife. “What do you think, Hon? About an hour?”

“Yes,“ she said, smiling at us both. “Thereabouts, I guess.”

I looked at Summer with a shocked look. Here it had taken us three hours and they had made it in one.

“Of course twenty minutes of that was on the bus,” the man added.

“Bus?”

“Yeah, go down that little trail right there and it’s a bus stop. Last one leaves out right before sunset though, so if ya’ll are here for that, I’m afraid you’ll just have to roll down the hill on your own.”

“A bus,“ I said to Summer. “Now, why didn’t we think of that?”

“It’s still a little walk from here,“ the elderly missus told us. “Bus has to stop when it starts getting rocky. But it does save some wear on the feet.”

“This is his first hike in a while,” Summer replied.

“Oh me. Well then, you better take care of this fellow tonight. He won’t be good for nothing else after this mountain is through with him.”

“Oh Ma, leave them alone,“ her husband playfully admonished. “They look like a right perfect couple.”

A right perfect couple. I looked at Summer and she smiled at me. I could see it in her eyes, the want. Like me, that’s what she wanted out of life – to be part of something right, something perfect. Something we had never found with anyone else before. And yet here on this rocky mountaintop in front of this elderly couple who had shared years and years of sunsets, it somehow dawned on us – we were no longer two people walking through life alone and miserable. We were a couple stepping bravely into the unknown, knowing it was right, and that our companion was the most perfect one the heavens could ever have placed here for us.

What was left of the afternoon we spent among the rocks of Sharp Top. Sitting on top of a huge flat boulder resting between two others rocks of even larger size, we felt the wind and sun on our faces. Her head leaning on my shoulder with my arm protective around her, we sat in silence, comforted in the closeness of each other and the sheer wastefulness of the day. Other visitors also enjoyed the day, yet kept their distance from us, maybe realizing this was something special at work, a tender relationship developing before their eyes and they didn’t want to hinder its growth. As the day grew later, people began to wind back down the mountainside, either the way they had come or down the smaller trail to catch the bus. As the sun began its slow descent and the colors of the clouds began to change, we found ourselves with a slight sunburn from being outside all day. But it wasn’t the heat of the burn that warmed us from the inside out; it was knowing that we had each other to share this beautiful day with. As she rested against me, I found myself wishing that somehow we could have just as many sunsets together as the elderly couple sitting outside the cabin.

It was this thought – the prospect of other sunsets – that got me to thinking about the future and what would come after these days at Orchard House. “Summer,” I asked. “Do you really think I should pick up writing again?”

She smiled. “Yes I do. I think it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but for some reason you set it down and never picked it back up. It’s in your blood though. You just need something or someone to get your writing blood pumping again.”

“I’ve never had anyone to push me to do anything. No one really encouraged me to keep writing.”

“Ashley?” she asked.

“No, she just had the attitude of do what you want as long as it doesn’t affect what I want.” I sighed. “She never really cared what I wrote.”

“That’s sad.”

“That’s why when I was into the poetry thing I never wrote her anything.”

“Nobody ever wrote me anything either.”

I smiled. Looking at her now in the late afternoon sun, I could write volumes of it.

Summer patted my hand. “You really should write, Matthew. Your description of our kiss was amazing.”

“Our kiss was amazing.”

“Yes it was.”

“I hope there’s many more,” I ventured.

Her smile said it all. “Me too.”

We sat there a few more minutes on our rocky perch in silence. It was so peaceful. Even more so that the sun was dipping. We watched the last remaining families make their way to the paths and for a moment I thought I heard the bus straining its way up the mountain. “Want to stay and watch the sunset? Or do you want to catch the last bus down?”

She leaned closer to me. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to stay. I really want to see the sunset with you. “

“I want to see it with you, too.”

“If your legs are too tired to make the hike down though..”

“I’m okay. You can just roll me down the trail like a spare tire.”

She laughed. “As long as I don’t have to change you.”

“You already have.”

“You have changed me too, Matthew.”

“So, what’s next for you?”

“What do you mean?”

“After you finish up all your mom’s affairs. What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know really. All my life I have worked in restaurants or retail. It’s really all I know to do, and yet I don’t want to do it anymore. “

“What would be your ideal job then?”

A wistful look came across her face. “I’d love to work in a nursery.”

“Kids?”

She laughed. “No. flowers.”

“Cool.”

“Yeah, I love flowers and gardening. It’s so relaxing. I picked it up from my mom. She always had a wonderful garden, and as a kid I helped her a lot. Maybe in that sense, I can hang onto a little piece of her through gardening, you know?”

“Yeah, I know,” I agreed. “I kind of did the opposite with writing. When my folks died, I quit writing. It reminded me of them, how they had encouraged me and were proud of me. It’s just when I pick up a pen now I think of them and it bums me out.”

“Well, why don’t you write a story for them? I mean, you could write about Hope and Gunboats there at Orchard House, but you could also write it for your parents, too.”

“I guess it’s worth a shot. Hey look at that…” I pointed at the sky. It was really changing colors now. Clouds were streaked with orange as they sailed across the sky; a sky that was now shifting from orange to burgundy.

“It’s beautiful,” Summer said.

“Yeah. It reminds me of a poem.”

“Really?”

I looked down into her face, daring to look at her dark eyes, now reflecting the colors of cloud and sky back at me. I closed my eyes for a moment. When I opened them up again, Summer was staring into my face, perhaps watching my eyes reflect the wondrous sunset too. In that moment, the words finally came easy for me.

“If we could stay here forever,

Under the shimmering velvet sky

To run my fingers through your chestnut hair

And never say goodbye;

We could watch the colors swirl

At the closing of the day

From the clouds above the mountaintops

To where we softly lay

Your face turned upwards to the light

The sun catches your dark eyes

Oh, if we could only stay here forever

Under the shimmering velvet sky.”

She was silent for a moment, but a certain glow had come across her face. “Wow,” she said. “That was beautiful. Who wrote it?”

“I just did.”

She smiled. “For me?”

“For you. The poem no one had written you before.”

“Matthew.”

“Yes?”

“I…” she hesitated. There was the beginning of a tear in her eye and she wiped it away with the back of her hand. I could tell she was struggling with what to say, until finally the words she mustered were a simple “thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” I said, and though I felt there was more both of us wanted to say in this moment, we just let the echo of the poem speak what we felt, as we held each other and watched the sun dip and disappear on the far horizon.

Part 35: Kiss And Drive

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