The Heath and The Hearth

Disclaimer: The following post is creative writing and does not really have anything to do with my travels in Mexico. It is meant to be an epilogue to a longer story, which I haven’t written yet. Enjoy.

And so they came again to the quiet dusty road and slowly rounded the bend. Angeline breathed in the fresh air and sweet smell of the honeysuckles as they rode, unhurried. She showed no outward sign of excitement or anticipation as the horses came to a stop in front of the little cottage, covered with vines and surrounded with hollyhocks in the full bloom of summer. Hers was an emotion that surpasses excitement. It was the satisfaction of experiencing, after a long parting, that which has brought the most joy. She could not let the moment pass too quickly by rushing up to the door or whirling through the rooms or the garden. She savored the feel of the delicate flowers and the splintering pickets of the gate as she ran her hand along them. She paused her walk up the garden path to focus her full attention on a lark playing with its mate. Finally, she drew out a small, plain key and fitting it to the lock, subconsciously leaned her ear toward the door to listen for the small clack of the latch opening.

While she relished the interior of the house with the same calm pleasure as she had the garden, he hesitated outside. He watched her closely, perhaps wanting to share in her joy, but not comprehending it fully. He eventually looped the horses’ reins over the fence and walked carefully up the path, wiping his boots off before the gate to avoid defiling what was precious to her with soil from far away. He found her in the kitchen humming softly as she took down cups and saucers for tea, holding each one carefully and tenderly. The table was already spread with a white tablecloth and in a few minutes more it was also decked with a vase of flowers. He had picked them carefully from among the flourishing, but slightly unruly garden.

“I am sorry that I do not have cream or proper biscuits, Harold, but there is some dried fruit from last year and the tea itself is quite good.”

“It is very lovely, Angeline, you needn’t trouble yourself,” though he knew she had not really said this as an apology to him, but as a merry reminder that it would not be many days before she had the pleasure of cream and proper biscuits.

After tea, while she scrubbed the dishes with the same merry tune as earlier, he said suddenly, “Angeline, I must be going now.” The singing stopped and the scrubbing slowed.

“So soon?” She said looking out the window at the playing larks again. It was the first note of sadness in her voice.

“Yes, I am afraid so. I have not stopped by any of my regular posts since before we started out late fall and, well, I might be needed somewhere.” He took her arm, “I hope you will see me to the door.” She smiled politely, “I should think I have remembered enough about hospitality to do that, even for a visitor who leaves sooner than desired.” On the doorstep he faced her as if to speak to her, but could not seem to think of what to say. Finally he almost whispered, “May I kiss you? Not…uh, I mean, just right here,” touching her cheek with his fingers. She blushed a little and nodded. He leaned over and gently kissed her and said in her ear, “I shall think of you much on my travels.” As he walked back up the path, she waited a moment on the threshold and then hurried after him and stood right within the gate as he mounted. “And I of you when I sit and take my tea.”

He thought of nothing else to say, though perhaps he hoped that she would ask him to stay. She neither asked him to stay nor offered to go with him, so he slowly turned his mare in the direction of the road. Harold wondered if his way might take him along this very road again. Perhaps, but his path was seldom the same. Maybe that was why he could not really understand her. Maybe this would not be such a bad place to call home; that is, if someone out there asked him about his home. He could describe the cottage and little garden in front. Yes, it would not be bad to claim a place as home so long as he had the road and excitement and adventures. Before the bend, he took one last look, so that he would know how to describe it; the cottage, the sunlight, the bright blossoms, Angeline still quietly waiting at the gate. Then he made the bend.

Angeline stood awhile after he had left; partly hoping he would turn back, partly urging herself to call for him to wait for her. But neither of these things happened. A few tears fell as she turned from the road, but as she again gazed at the cottage, she quickly thought of all of the chores to be done after her absence. She thought of her recipe box and her little library and the fine linen tablecloths stored for special occasions. She thought of the trimming and hedging to be done in the garden and that it was quite time she moved the foxglove to a sunnier spot. She took a deep breath of relief.

And here ends our story of two people who knew what they loved well enough not to give it up.

Image from unsplash.com

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