Springtime in the farmlands was sunlight, soft showers, the rich scent of newly turned earth, and robins searching for worms. Rose walked the trail she knew so well. Purple and yellow violets, delicate wild geraniums, and comical Jack in the Pulpit hemmed its border. She paused. Just here was the spot where she and Adam, her high school sweetheart, had made love on a plaid blanket before he was sent off to Vietnam.
She rubbed her back. That pain was starting to shoot down her right leg again, but the farmhouse was just ahead. She hurried up the gravel path, stepped onto the wide green veranda and opened the door with a sigh of pure pleasure. She smiled and inhaled the soothing scent of dried lavender and Murphy’s Oil Soap. She was safe. She was home.
` Peace flowed from the old polished floorboards, the plaster walls, and the big oak beams that supported the ceiling. Cozy, her calico cat, purred on an old cushion in shaft of golden sunlight. The grandfather clock ticked like a heartbeat, while a mockingbird sang arias from the weather vane on the roof. She hoped a lady bird was listening. She hoped she would pick him the way she had picked Adam on the dance floor in 1967, the week before he left for boot camp. The summer of 1967 had been a good time, a good vintage and one she would always savor. She’d had her share of lovers; there was Adam--her soldier boy, a hippie named River, and that young professor of philosophy…Larry. They had all been beautiful as she had been beautiful. They had been so in love with being in love, in that fragile and wild time before Herpes, AIDs and Hepatitis C crushed the juice out of free love.
Then there was John, her other young professor--so witty and cynical. At the party, everyone thought that he was brilliant and talked about his book on Adam Smith and the Wealth of Nations. Academia wasn’t her bag. She’d dropped out of college to run an organic farm. He was a practical Capricorn. She was an Aries—impulsive and adventurous. But they had wanted each other from the first look. They talked, argued, and laughed for hours. Just before dawn they found an empty bedroom and made love, while a June thunderstorm shook the house.
Afterwards, she shivered with delight as he stroked the curve of her waist and murmured, “Your skin is as soft as rose petals.” It was a romance novel sort of thing to say, but he’d meant it. He had served her breakfast in bed and given her a bouquet of Tiger Lilies.
One autumn later, she’d made her own wedding dress and had twined the garland of flowers she wore atop her long auburn hair. Trailed by the wedding party, they walked to the edge of the cornfield where the Unitarian minister married them before God, Goddess, and their Presbyterian and Jewish Parents, while Indian summer heat raised beads of sweat and the ladies’ high heels pushed into the dirt.
` Within a year she was walking and walking, up and down the hallway as her contractions grew closer and longer. Then, she was walking up and down the hallways of this house year after year jiggling each of their five children. Soothing, singing, rocking them back into a gentle world of dreams.
Now the kids were grown, flown away. Busy with their own lives. And still she walked in the woods and farmland where she and John had raised them--tracing the paths of their lives, wandering along the banks of her memories.
She began to forget things. She lost her neighbor’s name and groped for specific nouns—unable to topple the high blank barrier and grasp the term “parking meter.” They had both laughed the time she’d put the ball of yarn in the refrigerator, but she’d seen fear flash from John’s eyes. Now, she saw sadness in his eyes when he thought she wasn’t looking.
Rose glanced at the clock and wondered why the polished brass pendulum had stopped swinging. The mockingbird had stopped singing and the room had grown dark. She groped for a switch. Her chest tightened. Who the hell had moved all of the lights?
She called for him then. ‘John? John!”
The door burst open.
“Rose! Damn it! You can’t take off without telling me!”
He cupped her face, tilting it so that she had to meet his eyes. “Don’t you know how frightened I was?” He kissed her forehead, “You can’t just wander the whole way over here in your nightgown in the middle of March!”
He made her feel oddly guilty—like a little girl caught with her hand in the cookie jar. “My goodness! I was just checking on Cozy.” Her brow creased, “Cozy? Now look! You’ve scared her off.”
Jon gathered her into his arms. “You’re freezing. We have to go home now Rose.”
“Honey, Cozy’s been dead for ten years.”
Rose stared at him blankly. He sighed. It was no use.
“Tell you what. You pick Cozy up, and we’ll bring her with us. Okay?”
Rose beamed and sighed with contentment as John slipped on her coat.
Then, she lifted Cozy as John opened the door for her.
“Come on sweetheart; it’s getting dark.”
She paused. “I don’t think I want to go on this walk. You go. I’ll stay here.”
The arm encircling her waist tightened slightly. “I have a surprise for you. You have to come with me honey.”
She looked up into her lover’s face. “Where are we going?”
Pain flashed in John’s eyes. “For a walk, honey; just for a little walk.”