Author's Note: This story is fictional. It was not written with Earth Day in mind, but it happened to be ready at about the right time. My thanks to a friendly critic for suggesting that I enter it into the contest.

Saturday, August 12, 1995...

It's the beginning of a two-week birthday present. My birthday was three months ago, but I haven't minded the wait. Don and I had to schedule time off at both of our jobs and this was the best time to do it. It's a vacation, a romantic getaway and a long-awaited moment in our relationship.

For my birthday, He promised me he would open up about his childhood and family. He said he needed to do it in his own way, in a special place. We would be alone. He would be on familiar ground and, he said, time would cease to exist.

Don's a romantic.

We aren't engaged but we've been getting pretty serious. I've been pretty sure for a while that he's Mr. Right. It's the time in a relationship when you meet the family, but he can't take me to meet his family. They're all gone.

Instead, he's taking me to the one thing he has left from his childhood - the farm.

I've known for a long time that he has a small place in the country. It's been in his family for generations. I'm excited about getting to see it and seeing this other side of him.

Even beyond that, it's a vacation!

I've been longing for a chance to get out into the county, here in the Midwest. Driving through farmland is one thing. I've done that any number of times on trips back and forth between the cities, but actually staying overnight on a farm, his family farm, this is a big treat.

I've lived in the Midwest for several years, but I still feel like a stranger. For an east-coast girl like me, it takes a while to get used to the flat lands of Illinois. At first glance through the window of a fast moving car, one big, flat, open farm looks pretty much like any other. Now that I've been here for a while, I'm starting to notice the subtle differences in the landscape.

But that's Illinois, where we live and where we spend most of our time. This place is a little different. Up north, here in the middle of Wisconsin, there are rolling hills and forests and streams. The area reminds me of the farms on the tops of the mountains near where I grew up in Virginia, except these farms are a lot bigger and you never have to go "back down the mountain".

It's late summer a beautiful Saturday. It took a few hours to get here from the city, but it was a nice drive. The trip let us unwind and leave the pace of urban life as we acclimated to the countryside.

After a couple of hours, the interstates became highways, then major roads. Later, the roads grew smaller and the houses farther apart. Eventually, it was mostly farmland: huge areas of corn, soybeans and, of course, lots and lots of cows. Every once in a while, there was a small town. When we finally arrived at Don's property, we had left our world far behind.

On the way, we talked about a lot, his grandfather for example. He died six years ago - two years before I met Don - and had retired many years before that. Don kept the farm as a vacation home and has kept up the house and buildings as a place to visit and remember his childhood.

I knew that his grandparents raised him and that they had died, leaving him alone in the world. Now I have some perspective. The death of his grandfather wasn't a long-ago, far-away event. It was recent enough that the pain is still fresh. My instincts were right. I need to be patient with him.

When we arrived, it was early afternoon.

The farm is a square mile... and in the Midwest, when they say a "square mile", they mean a square mile. The fence line is 5,280 feet on each side of the property. Somebody was pretty anal when they divided up all this land.

Even the row of trees, just inside the fence, look as if an accountant measured them out. They're all the same kind of tree, the same height and the same distance apart. I couldn't see much beyond the trees as we approached the entrance.

We pulled up to the middle of the south fence. The gate was closed. It wasn't much of a fence by city standards; enough to keep the cows in (or out) but easy to climb over if you're so inclined. The gate was newer than the fence, with what looked like an automatic opening mechanism.

Don reached into the glove box - playing with my leg on the way, naturally - and pulled out something that looked like a fancy remote control for a garage door opener. "I have to turn this on first. I don't waste the batteries when I'm not here." He slid a switch. The remote beeped loudly and a red light came on.

"Yup, the doorbell's working." He turned to me and said, "There's a sensor here by the gate. Whenever anyone pulls up, it beeps the remote. That way we know when we have company, even if we're camped out on the lawn."

I nudged his shoulder. "In other words, it's a toy."

"Um... yeah? What's your point?" He pushed another button and the gate opened as I messed with his hair.

"You country folk are pretty hi-tech." Despite my sarcasm, I was impressed. Of course, I wasn't going to tell him that. The remote probably comes in handy when it rains too.

We drove through the gate and cleared the tree line. That's when it hit me: This farm is massive. I never really knew how big a square mile was until I saw one outlined so clearly. Imagine a good-sized shopping mall, including the parking lot and all of the fast-food places and banks around the edges. Now imagine four of them. That's how big the farm is.

My jaw dropped. I looked over at him. "'A little place in the country?' That's what you call this?" Looking out the windows, I shook my head. "This is big enough to land a plane in."

"Yes, actually it is. You could land a small jet on the diagonal, but you'd have to cut down the trees." He put his arm around me as he continued up the driveway - actually it was more of a road - to the house.

"...Or you could fit four eighteen-hole golf courses and have room for a really nice club house." I smiled and kissed his shoulder. He didn't need to try and impress me. The size of this... plantation... was more than enough.

Don parked the car in the driveway, well short of the house. We got out and I looked around, still in shock. "This is bigger than the last couple of towns we drove through," but, I thought to myself, it's so open and quiet and private.

About a quarter of the property is a sloping wooded area with a stream running through it. The rest is a massive field of gently sloping and rolling prairie, bordered, as I said, by a fence and a line of trees all the way around. The farmhouse and the barn are near the edge of the woods, right smack in the middle of the square.

"Don, this place is huge."

"Actually," he said, "it's a normal-sized family farm: 640 acres, or one square section. That's how they divided up the land back in the 1,800's when my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather settled here. Each generation since then has only had one son survive long enough to inherit the farm, so it was never divided up."

"Survive long enough?" I asked, "What happened?"

"The Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea ...Vietnam... and..." He fell silent. We had drifted into one of those areas that was hard for him to talk about. I put my arm around him. Maybe his Dad died in Vietnam.

The silence was becoming awkward. I kissed his cheek and said, "You don't have to tell me everything all at once." That was an understatement, seeing as how he hadn't told me much, but it seemed to help.

He smiled at me and hugged me back. "You've been really patient with me."

Well good, I though. It's nice when a guy notices things.

He looked a little restless, so I changed the subject for him, "How about lunch?"

We took the picnic basket and he gave me a walking tour of the farm. I was glad he had suggested blue jeans and a simple shirt. It fit right in with the setting. I had decided to go native and had rolled up the bottom of the blouse to tie it as a halter, with a plain half-bra on underneath. It doesn't cover much, but I'm really comfortable and there's plenty of bare skin to keep Don interested.

We were going to be alone and I was planning on enjoying it.

He's really handsome in his jeans and snap-button shirt. He doesn't exactly look like a farmer, but somehow he fits in. He belongs here.

Don played tour-guide, but I spent as much time looking at him as I did looking at the landscape. There was something in the air - and I don't mean cow manure - that made me want his strong arms around me, even more than usual.

"It's been more than twenty years since Granddad planted any crops. When he retired, he kept a few acres around the house and barn as regular lawn grass. The rest is 'natural prairie'." His hand swept across the main part of the landscape. "We let the old fields revert to their natural form, with a little help from modern science."

He paused a moment, then said, "I helped with the restoration when I was a little kid and I've been helping him maintain it ever since." Yes, he talked about his grandfather in the present tense. He's not over it, not yet.

We walked to the edge of the "prairie". Depending on where you walk, it's around knee high, some shorter some taller.

From the way he looked and sounded, it was clear that Don takes a lot of pride in the family homestead. It really shows in the property too. The buildings are all well kept up and nicely painted. Even though there was no one living there full time, the lawn had been mowed within the week and there weren't any stray trees growing inside the prairie.

"You really have a beautiful place here. It's like a Normal Rockwell painting."

He looked at me, thinking for a moment. "I have some paintings of the farm inside. They aren't by Norman Rockwell, but you may have heard of the artist.

I hugged my arms around him from the side and kissed his shoulder, running my hands up and down his arms. Don is a good five inches taller than I am and that makes him seem even stronger. Something about it all made me want to tear our clothes off and run around naked or maybe lay down in the middle of the prairie and have sex all afternoon.

I turned him to me. He kissed me, holding me close as his hands wandered around my back. "We're going to have fun here, aren't we?" I whispered.

"I think we can find some ways of having fun," he said, as he squeezed me tight and pinched my behind. I yelped, and then covered my mouth in embarrassment, but I quickly felt even sillier when I realized that there was literally no one within a mile of us. I could laugh out loud - or make other kinds of noise - and no one would hear.

As we walked around, and he showed me the outbuildings, I kept my arm around him or held his hand the whole way. It was the first time we've ever been truly alone with each other, with no neighbors anywhere in sight or sound. In the city, there are always people nearby.

We eventually went into the woods and he took me to me the old sturdy bench where you can overlook the hill and see parts of the neighboring farms. "This is the only place where people can really see us," he said. "Even then, they would have to use some pretty good binoculars."

"... and know that we're here." I added.

He looked at me with a little smile as we sat down on the bench. "They know, Wendy. I'm sure Mrs. Schneider saw us driving by her house four miles down that way and immediately told the neighbors that the 'young guy' was in the area." He leaned into me and said quietly, "and it looks like he might have a lady friend with him."

I was a bit surprised. "Are they that nosy?"

He laughed. "Yeah, it's sort of like the rural version of a Neighborhood Watch. They keep an eye on the place most of the time to make sure nobody breaks in when I'm not here. Besides, I'm something of a local legend: 'That young kid who's still hanging on to the farm just to come up and visit every once in a while.'" He choked back a little, remembering something that he wasn't ready to share.

I ran my hand over his back. It seemed like he might actually open up and talk about his childhood... if I let him take a couple of weeks. But then, we had a couple of weeks, didn't we?

After another long silence, I changed the subject, again making it easier for him. "So are we going to have a welcoming committee showing up with dinner and pies and dozens of little kids?"

He smiled. "No, not yet." He hugged me again, still looking off into the distance. "They'll call first and we can arrange a day for that. They're pretty good about giving me time alone up here."

I lay my head on his shoulder. We really were alone - just the two of us - and some memories.

We sat there for a while, enjoying the peace and quiet and watching the birds. After a while, he kissed me, softly, like the gentle breeze that surrounded us. We looked at each other, both knowing that we could do whatever we wanted and no one was there to say otherwise.

He took the lead, unbuttoning my blouse down to the knot and pulling it open. I was a little nervous, but not from the exposure. The woods around us provided enough cover. No, my nerves were on edge anticipating the feelings he was about to stir up in me. Don's a great lover and it's intense when his hands first touch me.

I moved my hands up to untie the blouse but he stopped me, bringing his lips down to the center of my chest. He kissed his way all around, while I cradled his head and ran my fingers through his hair.

It took a while, but he managed to kiss every inch of me between the bra straps, from the top of my shoulders, all the way down to the edge of the bra.

Again, I tried to help him by reaching in to unhook it - and again he stopped me. He brought his head up to face me. "We have all the time in the world." He sat up and slid to the end of the bench, then pulled a bowl of fruit salad from the basket. With that, he patted his lap, motioning me to lie back and put my head there.

As I stretched out I looked up at him. His hands cradled my face and eased me into a comfortable position. I almost cried. He's always been affectionate but this was different: calm, leisurely - as if we were an old married couple. I don't think I had ever seen him relax that much.

When I was laid back and settled, he used his free hand to untie the knot in my blouse. It took him a while with one hand but he refused my offer of assistance, saying that doing it one-handed made it more fun. The slowness was part of the charm, but it was driving me nuts. I wanted his hands on me.

It finally sunk in that he wasn't just taking the lead, he was in control. It was a confident side of him that I hadn't seen before. He was as gentle as always, but he was taking charge of me. All I had to do was lie back and enjoy it. A warm feeling started to emanate from the base of my spine. I was being seduced in a way I had never experienced before.

Once he had the knot untied, he put his hand on my breast, over the shirt, and just sat there looking at me. My excitement was building even when he wasn't doing anything. Slowly he started to touch me through the shirt and bra, turning my "warm feeling" into an aching desire. He would have me begging for it if he kept it up. I could handle that.

After a minute or two, he changed pace. He hurriedly unhooked the bra and moved it and the shirt out of his way. I laughed. He wanted to relax, take it slow and melt my heart, but he also wanted to get me naked. His strong side was at war with his horny side. That was fine by me too.

The breeze rushed in, cooler than I expected, sizzling when it met the heat of my body. Its sudden touch brushed my nipples, hardening them instantly. I was naked, my breasts exposed outdoors, but I still felt safe in the woods, on my back, in his arms, miles away from the nearest prying eyes.

Don likes to surround my breasts with his hands, taking them one at a time and squeezing the whole breast at once, as if he were molding them. My tits are exactly the right size for each of his hands. I've always been conscious of them being a little small, but times like this make it not seem so bad. We fit together.

He went from one to the other, cupping, squeezing and sometimes pinching the nipples. Still, it was gentle and seemed to last forever. I couldn't feel time passing. There weren't any clocks, phones or anything accept the sun to mark the time. Even the sun was hidden by the trees overhead.

And no decisions to make... Don took care of everything, deciding what to do and how to do it. I felt a new kind of freedom, a feeling of belonging to him, of being in his care - under his protection. I liked having him in charge. It gave me my first glimpse of what it might be like to be his wife.

He took the lid off of the bowl and brought a chunk of apple to my mouth. I smiled as he traced my lips with it and slowly fed it to me. Next came a piece of strawberry. He did the same, gently using it to moisten my lips, not quite teasing me with it.

He took out another strawberry, and this time took it to my right nipple. I cringed as he touched it, afraid it was going to be cold. It was a little cold but not bad. He traced swirls around the rest of the boob, making it moist and sticky and tickling. I had to resist the urge to wipe the juice off. He knew what he was doing. He would lick it off later and I would enjoy it when he did.

He ate the strawberry, his face in ecstasy as if there was something very special about the taste. Maybe there was. It was covered in my essence, after all. He did the same thing with a grape on the other side, rolling it around and tickling me. Once that was finished and the grape eaten - savoring every morsel - he fed me a few more bites.

He kept feeding both of us, heightening the flavor of each bite with some tactile nuance; tracing his own pieces around my chest and tummy before popping them in his mouth. The fruit was a set of paintbrushes, each flavor a different color on his pallet. I was his canvas and he was bringing his art to my body. Wherever his brush touched, his passion flowed into me, just as it did in his paintings.

The privacy and the surroundings reminded me of the Garden of Eden. I wasn't quite naked but close enough to make me feel lascivious. We didn't have a care in the world, except each other.

Eventually, when we had had our fill of fruit, and the mural on my torso was completed, his hand slid down to the top of my jeans. I looked down, anticipating his next move. As soon as his fingers touched the button, I took his hand and brought it to my lips, licking the fingers. Even though I longed for him to go farther, I wanted to tease him a little.

Looking up at him, I said, "Let's wait until we get inside the house. As you said, we have all the time in the world." I licked my lips, knowing that he was frustrated. I was too, but I felt like I could wait.

I wondered how he would handle this challenge to his new-claimed authority. Would he back off and continue touching my upper half, or would he over-rule me and proceed downward?

He showed his metal and cunning by calling my bluff. He smiled down at me. "OK, let's go back to the house."

I laughed, "Right now? You don't want to wait a while?" I could see that he didn't but I still wanted to toy with him. I wasn't going to give up all of my leverage just yet. He helped me sit up. I removed the bra through the sleeves and started to retie the shirt.

Again, he stopped me, this time lifting me onto his lap facing him. My heart pounded in my chest as he re-asserted his control of me. Damn he's good.

I gave in to him. I straddled him, with my knees beside his hips. Tears formed in my eyes. Now my whole body wanted nothing more than to be molded by his hands.

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