I love this season. The wood stacked by the back door, the whisper of the warm wind, and the laughter of the children rustling through the leaves. All the smells, sights and sounds calmed me at this time of year. I love the golden hay in the orchard nearby and the round bright orange pumpkins all around. Though over the summer I’d forgotten my favorite parts. The sickly sweet apples that grew out in the trees near our house, and the colors of the leaves.
I take one from the barrel my father just brought in yesterday, and take in into the kitchen. I set it down on the cutting board and slice it. I pull down the sleeve of my maroon sweater, and lift the freshly cut apple up to my nose. The smell of it I will never forget. Each morning I have been getting up like this before the sun, so as to watch the ordinary promise of any sunrise here.
Smothering silence fills our small house, and I make my way out onto the small back porch, settling myself in a chair.
I watch the sky’s edge turn rosy, and hear the chorus of birds start their songs. I hear running footsteps from inside. My attention turns to my little sister Molly who comes running out onto my lap.
“It’s beautiful.” she exclaims.
“Yes it is isn’t it?” I say as she lays her head on my shoulder.
“How many apples did daddy pick yesterday?” she asks me.
“I dunno Molly, why don’t you go count.” I tell her. A smile crawls across her face with delight. She runs away back into the house. Molly is a carefree child of five years old. Her chocolate brown hair is no different from mine, except for that it’s stick straight where as mine is downright curly. Her eyes are big like a puppy’s, white-washed blue like a winter’s sky.
I decide I want to take long row down the lake. My family is used to me getting up early and doing what I’d like, knowing this is my favorite season.
I slip on my red one piece bathing suit and pull on a plain white tee shirt over it. I was given my own boat for my tenth birthday, and ever since I go out in it every chance I get. This, and music are basically the only things I can escape with.
I step into the small little boat, and row out into the middle of the lake. I tie my hair up and strip off the tee shirt, and jump into the lake. Its cold, and the shivers come fast. But it feels good. As I come up and gasp for air, the smell of the apple trees fills me up again.
But my thoughts and calmness is interrupted by a sound so lovely and quiet. I hang onto the side of my boat, tired of treading water, and look around for the sound.
Its on the corner of the cove I spot him sitting on the grassy hill near the waters edge. He holds a simple guitar in his hands, strumming ever so quietly. This boy, I had never seen around before. He has beach blonde hair, unlike most people around here. His skin is pale and milky, and his watery blue eyes are like nothing I’ve ever seen. I hopped back into my boat and lay down in the bottom of it, listening to him. He hums a silent song to himself, like a lullaby.
“Olivia!” I hear my mom call from the porch. I pop straight up from the bottom of the boat and start to row back. The boy notices me, and stops playing. He looks at me, but jerks his head back just as quick. Once back at the house, I tie up my boat and run up to the kitchen.
“Olivia!” says Molly.
“Haha, hey squirt.” I say as she hugs my knees.
“Would you like some eggs dear?”
“Yeah with toast please.” I say and head upstairs to change. I roll up my wet hair in a tight bun, and slip into jeans and my purple, plaid, button up shirt.
I head back upstairs and grab my plate from my mom and sit down at the table. “Olivia, we are going to meet some new neighbors today.” my mom tells me.
My mind automatically draws its attention back to the boy on the lake. Could this be who she was talking about? I don’t know what makes me so excited, but suddenly my heart is filled with a growing case of the butterflies.
“What time?” I ask her.
“Oh around, five? We have invited them to dinner here.” she says. My heart drops. Here? Why did it have to be here? This is how we were going to start the two week Thanksgiving break?
* * *
Time rolls around to four-thirty, and Im helping my mom set the outside deck table. I have neatly dressed myself in a red sundress my mother had picked out and my hair is left in its tight curls.
Suddenly, a faint ringing of the doorbell breaks the fall silence in the room.
I hide in the kitchen, pretending to not notice anything by slicing myself another crisp apple from the barrel.
“Ah, hello-“ my mom is cut off by their polite answers.
“Margaret.” the lady says shaking my mother’s hand. “And this is my husband John.” he sticks out a hand to my mother and father as well. I come later to know them as Mr. and Mrs. Howe.
“Very nice to meet you all.” my dad says.
“And this is our son James.”
“Hello sir.” James says shaking my dad’s hand, and then my mom’s. James’ voice sounds like the exact same voice that I heard singing on the edge of the lake this morning. Not ready to to face his adorable self, I bite into my apple, grab another and run out the back, down the steps and to the stables.
The stables haven’t been swept in awhile, and they smell of the sickly sweet rotting apples. I crunch into mine again. I make my way over to Titan’s stall, my horse which I happily took in when I was eleven. Titan is a very tall, muscular flea bitten gray. He has a lot of pride and likes to be pampered and talked to. I usually take daily rides with him.
I stand with my back pressed against his stall, talking gently to him.
“Ah, Im sorry you were cramped up in here all day. I brought you a small something.” Slowly I reach out my hand to him holding the apple. He turns his massive head little, showing me the white of one liquid eye. “You like apples. I know you do. Go ahead take it then, go on.” I smile. He studies the scent before taking the apple in a single bite. I rub the middle of his nose, where he likes it most. Its soft and gentle.
He nudges my head, letting me know he wants out.
“Alright, alright you.” I say placing my cowgirl hat upon my head.
Bareback as always, I ride out into the field across from the lake. Daisies and dandelions cover the open grass. Titan loves to play around in these fields. In fact, as soon as I hop off him, he lays down and rolls on his back. He likes to think he’s a dog sometimes.
“You’re a handful aren’t you.” I say laying my head down in the grass. I grab a dandelion and blow at it, making a small wish.
I toss out the second apple to Titan, spoiling him.
* * *
Riding back towards the house, the butterflies start again.
“Olivia! I was wondering where you had gone.” my mom says. “This is Mr. and Mrs. Howe.” she introduces me. I shake their hands.
“James.” says the blonde boy, sweeping past his parents and sticking out a hand.
“Olivia.” I say. Butterflies!
James smiles. I smile. Something tells me this might have been a good start to Thanksgiving break after all.