After college, I located to Cedar Rapids, about 125 miles away. I came back to the farm frequently, especially after Dad died, then more in the last six months with Mom’s failing health. I only ever went to the farm, never socializing in town. Most folks never knew I was there, especially Molly Ann who I purposely avoided. I hadn’t seen or talked to her in twenty-five years.
Molly Ann was right, I needed to get back to the house. There were still guests and I needed to thank them all for coming. All the women from my mother’s church had brought food, so much food it could have fed a small army.
As we started up the hill, she asked, “How are you holding up?”
I stammered, “Uh, okay, I guess.”
“I’m very sorry about your mother, Travis. I truly am. I lost both my parents some years ago I can understand what you must be going through. You’re lucky to have had your mother this long.”
“Yeah, I suppose I am. I don’t know if it’s really sunk in yet.”
“It takes time.”
“Yeah, I suppose it does. I really should get back up there and say good-byes,” starting to walk faster.
She kept right with me, “I’d like to stay after and talk a while if that’d be okay?”
Again I stammered, “Uh, yeah, talk? Sure, of course.”
We walked the rest of the way in silence, me wondering what we’d have to talk about. Where was her husband?
After shaking everybody’s hands and again accepting their sympathy, the house was cleared of everybody, except for Molly Ann. We were alone now and I was fidgeting, uncomfortable, being with her.
“It’s good to see you, Travis. You look great.”
“Thanks. You’re looking good yourself,” I answered all too sharply. “How’s Carl?”
“I don’t know how he is. Carl left me two years after we’re married. I haven’t seen or heard from him since our divorce.”
It took me a moment to process what she said and I muttered half-heartedly, “Ah, I’m sorry, Molly. Really. I’ve been through it myself and can sympathize. Sucks.”
She waited for more from me, then continued nervously, like needing to fill the emptiness, the distance between us, with sound, “Yeah, he couldn’t handle the responsibilities of fatherhood and moved on leaving me alone with a baby. My parents helped me and I was able to go to junior college and become a medical assistant. So, I was a single mom and now my daughter, Emily, is a senior Iowa State trying to get into veterinarian school.”
She paused and, me failing to respond, she continued her voice beginning to quiver, “I’ve thought about you a lot, Travis. I’m sorry for treating you like I did, you know, like I did back then. I’ve wanted to see you for a long time, but you fell off the radar. I knew you came here a lot to visit, but you were never around. I’m sorry this circumstance was what finally gave me the chance to see you. ”
I grunted a response, not feeling much like hashing out old stuff. I looked by her, not wanting to meet her eyes.
She continued, “It was wrong of me, I know, just all of a sudden, I don’t know, just to ignore you like I did. It was stupid but I wanted to explore, to have girlfriends and check out other guys. We were always so close, I needed space. I should’ve talked to you then, I shouldn’t have just cut you off like I did, but I was young and didn’t know how to talk to you about the things I felt. I’m sorry. I know I must have hurt you.”
I grunted again, not having any response. The anger and confusion I felt back then came rushing back. She didn’t say anything, just stood there.
Then, with dripping sarcasm in my voice, I said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say. Seeing you after all these years, the way things happened back then. You really hurt me. Just all of a sudden you ignored me, like I was a pariah or something. I thought we were friends. But no, you went off made other friends. Never talked to me. You were popular. I was just another kid. Maybe it was my fault that I never really had any really close friends in high school. I don’t know, but I hated it.”
After several long moments, I looked over and saw her standing limply with her hands at her sides, her palms turned towards me as if pleading. She had tears running down her cheeks.
Seeing her just then, took me back in time to when we were maybe twelve, I remembered her pleading with me over some probably inconsequential thing. I remembered the fondness we had for each other. The anger, hurt, and regret faded away like the morning mist in fresh sunlight and tears wanted to also swell my eyes. I did something crazy, something I had wanted to do back when we were kids, I went to her took her in my arms, raised her chin gently and kissed her with all the pent up passion and love for her I didn’t know I had been carrying with me for twenty-five years. I felt her body stiffen for a moment and then relax, her arms went around my neck and she responded to my kiss with the same passion.
We took a breath, she whispered, “I’ve always loved you, Travis. I had to grow up before I realized it. By then you were gone. I’ve longed for this moment, not thinking it would ever happen, to hold you close, to kiss you, to feel your warmth.”
I was savoring her, wanting her, desiring her. I heard the night sounds coming through the screen door, crickets seemed louder, more frogs had joined the chorus, somewhere close by an owl hooted.
I whispered back, “I don’t want to ever lose you again. I never want to let you go. Don’t go away from me again. Please.”
She turned her head back to me and leaned back from my arms, still holding her tight around her waist, and looked me in the eye, tears were running freely down her cheeks, from fear, sadness, or happiness, I didn’t know.
Then she began to talk rapidly, immediate, in a panic, “Are you sure? We are starting something? You won’t easily get rid of me. This has to be for the long haul. But we both have baggage. It’s been a long time. We both have different lives now. It could get very complicated. I don’t want to hurt you or get hurt.”
My mind was racing, I placed my finger gently on her lips, “Okay, okay, slow down already. It might well be complicated, could be very complicated but here’s what I think, I don’t think we’re starting something new. I think we are continuing something we started long ago and never totally realized ’til now. Now we have to catch up.
“I’ve got a lot to do here sorting out the farm and estate so I’m going to have to be here a lot. We can see how the next few weeks or months go? Get to know each other again. Then, hopefully we can keep on going from there? My options are open right now. I have some ideas for what I want to do with the farm and it will all take time. I’m planning on being here for at least the next few weeks for sure and maybe full time when I get the farm up and running the way I want.”
We were quiet for a while, each absorbing what was happening, still not letting go. She was the first to break her hold, wiping tears on her sleeve, looking and smiling at me, and said, “Can we take a walk down by the old tree where the swing was, where I found you earlier. Remember the fun we had with that swing? It’s a beautiful night with a full moon. I wish that swing was still there.”
I replied, “Sure, I’d like that. I wish it was still there too. Then we could pretend we were swinging on a star like we used to.”
“We can still pretend we are anyway. I think I already am.” She took my hand and pulled me in for another kiss.
“Me too.” I returned her kiss, squeezed her hand and we went out into the night to swing on our star.