Orchard Ch. 2byLenny©
Tricia didn't even look to the left as so passed the orchard, driving exactly at the speed limit but gripping the car's steering wheel is if it were the life preserver being tossed to a possible drowning victim. Again, the day was hot, as it was just last week when she first passed this way and had stopped. And again, she left her job with the same frustration and anger she experienced seven days earlier simmering just beneath the carefully crafted veneer of her facial expression. She'd be lucky if she even had a job when she went back to work next week though she'd feel a lot luckier if she simply lost it completely. There never had been a future for her in waitressing but that sorry truth didn't change the fact that she still needed to find a way to support herself. She sighed as she glanced in the car's rear view mirror at the now busy fruit stand before slowing about a mile from the place where she had known comfort and trust for the first time in years. Pulling over under the protective canopy of a huge Valley Oak tree, she allowed the dust to settle before opening the front windows and turning off the car's engine.
Had it just been a week since she was there? Her perception of time seemed to mimic a child pace running up and down the sides of small hills: labouring to climb the leading edges, slowing at the tops, then plunging down the back slopes, using momentum to propel up the side of the next one. Similarly, time seemed to hurry forward one instant and crawl for her the next, never leaving Tricia with any sense of its usual regularity no matter how illogical that seemed. But all she could think about was the orchard and the boy she trusted there.
~ ~ ~
When Tricia had awakened in the small but comfortable farmhouse the morning after she'd stayed the night, she was alone in the bed. Pale morning light barely slipped between the weave of the thin flower-printed curtains. But the open window allowed the heady scent of the previous night's dew to nudge her mind into accepting the fact that she was still in the orchard, still under the light comforter and lighter top sheet, and still wearing only her panties and bra. Panic almost caused her to scream aloud before she saw the rest of her clothing neatly folded on the chair where she had left them the night before. But now, with the daybreak offering even less illumination than a candle, Tricia still felt dangerously exposed and vulnerable. After taking a worried glance at the door (and hearing nobody in this room's bath), she rushed to the chair and dressed as quickly as possible. Only then did she begin to calm and enter the bathroom.
There, Tricia found only enough 'female' supplies to shower again: soap, a fresh washcloth and towel, and a mirror. She certainly hadn't planned to be spending the night and sleeping beside a boy (who had to be at least 3 years younger than her 22 years) so she had nothing more than a simple hair brush, her lip balm, and, thankfully, three pieces of Brach's hard candy to at least mask her dubious morning breath. However, after the quietest shower of her life (trying not to make enough noise to wake the rest of the family), and redressing, she brushed out her hair and actually felt she looked rather presentable.
As soon as she came from the bathroom, she heard a small knock at the bedroom door and opened it to see the fully dressed boy with such a cute, expectant look upon his face, she giggled. He asked if he could come in and clean up after the morning chores and Tricia suddenly realized that she was now the first but the last person to arise from bed and there'd been no reason to worry about making noise.
She did a small, silly curtsy and waved him into the room with a regal flourish, which was acknowledged with a charming bow and a small laugh. He had obviously waited to attend his morning toilet until after his chores had been completed and it showed on him a lot more than it showed on her (or so she hoped!) His chin boasted a small amount stubble from the night's beard growth, his clothing was wrinkled and mismatched, and his hair was as tousled as a precocious but eternally young 'Dennis, The Menace'. And Tricia was charmed instantly once again.
Completely without thought, she opened her arms to this stranger and he moved between them, never taking his eyes away from her face until her smooth cheek touched his mildly bristly one in a hug that was more then casual but less than loving. Tricia strained to find the right amount of pressure to hug with, the holding of her breath (She tried to fool herself into thinking it was to spare him her 'morning breathe but, in all honesty, she had to admit it was to try and not bring her breasts any closer to this male.), and counting: one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three. When she got to one thousand four, she broke the embrace (Did he feel it was abrupt? Damn, she hoped not but she didn't know how to stay sane and have a man so close to her body, not again…. Oh, Lord, don't let that ever happen again) and looked deeply into his almond-coloured eyes, searching for the monster hiding behind them, praying for the saint, expecting both. The mildly surprised look and smile on his face removed most of her trepidation, causing her to blush fiercely for thinking of him like she thought of 'all men': pigs waiting for the opportunity to try to take advantage of another 'conquest'. If he noticed the blush, he didn't say so and he moved past her to the room's closet, gathered (matching!) clothes, and disappeared into the shower.
Not knowing what to do, she returned to the bed and quickly made it, trying to make the room look as much like it was when she first saw it – nothing like a place where a man and woman slept in the same bed! And with that thought Tricia's fears took a huge leap forward in her consciousness and she suddenly felt trapped in the once inviting room. With the sounds of the boy preparing a shower, her mind raced with images of his (now complete) nudity and nothing between the two of them but an old house's bathroom door.
Almost gasping with panic, she quickly turned from the interior of the room and stepped through the doorway to the hall and almost into the arms of the orchard's female co-owner and the boy's mother. Both did actually gasp and spontaneously hug, like the natural bonding of women dictates somewhere deep in their genes. Taking Tricia's hand, she led her to the master bedroom's bathroom and showed her all the things she had been without in the boy's room. Tricia's appreciation was displayed in another warm embrace with the rather stereotypical-looking 'farm mom' and she was left alone in the bath as the mom closed the door in departing.
Now, completely refreshed and feeling all the more confident, having some semblance of her normal morning routine finally behind her, she opened the door and found the mother sitting on the bed, awaiting her completion. Both smiled and Tricia sat next to her, noticing a rather prominent gleam in the older woman's eyes. She took both of Tricia's hands in hers and half-turned towards her. As Tricia turned as well, she noted that the bedroom door was closed this time but she felt no sudden need to leave (replaced by the word 'run' in her mind).
Both quietly sitting there a moment and looking into each other's eyes, they suddenly knew and they started talking excitedly right over each other.
* * * * *
The boy completed his morning cleaning up and tumbled out of the bathroom with his hair looking a lot worse than it did going in but otherwise, pretty much presentable. What he hadn't expected was to see his father seated in the chair which had held Tricia's clothing a few minutes ago. There was a neutral look on his face but the bedroom door was closed, usually a sign of either trouble or serious talk between just men. The boy sat on the bed directly in front of his father and waited. Nothing was said for a complete two minutes but neither seemed to be disturbed by the silence.
When he spoke, the boy's father told of his meeting the woman of his dreams, the boy's mother, their courtship and eventual marriage. The boy sat patiently through the story he'd heard often. When his father grew silent, the boy offered that he thought he knew what his dad had felt all those years ago and both smiled. Dad raised his brow a moment – considering – and then plunged into what he needed to say.
* * * * *
As if thought out and planned as well as the planting of the orchard, the boy's parents talked of the same things from their two dovetailing perspectives and their young charges listened with everything from respectful silence to unbridled laughter. And boy's father finished first and led his son to the kitchen where they prepared breakfast for their guest, the only one who hadn't eaten yet. They also fixed a bit more for the boy to eat with her, hoping to avoid making Tricia feel not quite as out-of-step with the family's routine. Then, the boy's father went back outside to work in the fruit stand.
In moments, Tricia came out of the master bedroom and the boy was shocked to see her so changed from this morning. Evidently his mother had decided to help Tricia make a different impression for breakfast. She still wore her hair down but it was brushed to a lustre that radiated the sun's early morning light and challenged it. As she tossed back her locks, the boy could see the antique earrings, which complimented the beautiful choker she wore on her neck. Even still dressed in yesterday's clothing, Tricia looked and felt as wonderfully different as if she had become another person, a 'clean' and happy person unaffected by any dreadful past.
The boy almost forgot to stand, but Tricia's patient smile (even when he was looking at her body) allowed him time to gather himself. Suddenly standing, he moved towards her and pulled out one of the heavy wooden chairs for her to be seated, pushing it in for her once she was comfortable. From there, he gathered her first breakfast and his second and returned to the table.
They ate while chatting about nothing and everything except what they most wanted to say. The boy's mother, listening from the hallway to the bedrooms, slowly shook her head, smiling. Neither her son nor Tricia noticed her slip past them and out into the orchard to join her husband.
When both had finished eating, the boy collected the dishes and they washed, dried and put them away. Standing side-by-side at the task, they bumped into each other a bit but neither mentioned how much those gentle bumps thrilled them. Continuing their light banter was all they acknowledged to each other though Tricia was hoping for another embrace like their spontaneous hug in the bedroom.
The boy walked Tricia to her car after they cleaned up the kitchen. He finally reached out to hold her hand (which she stifled a sigh in accepting) as they slowly approached it. Their strolling became slower and slower the nearer they got to the car and now both the boy's parents (thankfully out of sight in the fruit stand) slowly shook their heads and chuckled. Upon reaching the car, they stopped and their other hands came together as well, standing there, looking into each other's face, trying to remember each and every single thing about the other.
Tricia broke the connection (but she allowed her count to each almost to one thousand twenty before doing so) and opened her car's door, hesitating just a moment more to look at the orchard, the house where she had shared the boy's bed, and the fruit stand, waving to the boy's parents. And with a single glance back at the boy, she smiled broadly this time, and entered her car, starting it and driving away.
~ ~ ~
Now, here she sits, reminiscing that day all of a week ago, smiling to herself and reaching for the small hand-made pouch containing a pair of earrings and a choker. And with a very deep breath, she starts her car and turns back towards the fruit stand and the orchard.