Photograph by Lisa Shambrook (Please do not use without permission)
She dragged the back of her hand across her forehead, and wiped the sweat on the edge of her skirt as she stared into the distance. The road fizzled into a mirage of haze on the horizon and Loren leaned back against the fence post.
She’d heard the rumours, word spread fast in a small town, and she waited.
Slowly she slid down the wooden post, smoothed by wild prairie winds and rain, and settled in the long grass. She closed her eyes and let the sun beat down upon her. She glanced quickly to her side and smiled at the swathe of ox-eye daisies bobbing their heads at her in the breeze. The morning sun moved slowly overhead, and shadows glided lazily across her skin.
The midday bus ambled past in a cloud of dust, but Loren didn’t stir. She knew he’d walk.
Daisies anchored her, their nodding flowers brushing her leg where the breeze had ruffled her skirt.
Then she saw him. On the far horizon a figure broke through the haze and Loren got to her feet.
Her heart skipped and her breast rose and fell beneath her thin cotton, summer dress. Down on the floor a daisy brushed her leg and she smiled at its touch. Her breathing quickened as the figure grew slowly bigger and her heart began to unlock the bars that encased her soul. She could feel her blood coursing through her veins, and the rising flood threatened to break the dam of emotions now throbbing within her head.
She lifted one foot and rested it flat against the fence post, her knee thrusting forward, her skirt flapping in the breeze, and she flexed her fingers and swallowed. The summer wind rippled across her collarbone and she inhaled slowly. She cast her eyes downward and stared at the grasses then raised her head, following the rolling grass, until she focused solely on the silhouette walking down the vast road.
His pace lifted, and it was all she could do to stay rooted to the ground. He was no longer a blurry image, but a man, putting one exhausted foot in front of the other.
She could hear nothing but the crunch of his footfalls on the dusty gravel and the thump of her heart. She stood, ignoring her weakening legs and damp palms, and turned her face toward her man. Tears rolled down her cheeks, but still she did not move, choosing instead to remain anchored and savour the sweet approach of her love. Her hands shook and the empty years rolled away.
His face was dark and tanned, his stubble raw, and his hair swept in curls about his face as he locked his black velvet eyes with hers. His hand reached forward and unsteady fingers moved a strand of golden hair from her cheek and then his lips were on hers, and hunger bled through their bodies.
She melted into his frame and fingers entwined, legs leaned close and bodies moulded into one, and beneath the hot summer sun, for a few moments, they were lost within each other.
Flushed and quenched she ran her fingers down his prickly cheek and gently pushed him away. His eyes pierced her through and black, lusty pupils drowned in her gaze. She smiled and cast her eyes down toward the flowers and grasses at her feet, her anchor. He followed her gaze and his face crumpled.
He fell to his knees and whispered softly, “God grant me grace…and forgiveness…”
Loren watched, her heart soaring with pride and love as he held out a trembling hand, and beheld his own eyes.
The five-year-old smiled, a shy curl of her lips, and black velvet eyes regarded him with curiosity. Then as tears streamed down his face his daughter held out a small hand and presented a daisy, a broken daisy with a snapped stem and missing petals. He took the flower and raised it to his lips, then stuck it in the button hole of his moth-eaten, four-and-a-half-year-old, woollen suit.
He took his daughter’s hand and stood. His voice caught as he stared into Loren’s eyes, “I’m home.”