“Did you bring your books with you?” Luke asked Sarah Jane as she picked cherries from the last tree in the section. Next peaches.
“Yes, but I’m not done. There are a ton of cherries in the middle of the tree.”
“Don’t worry about those ones yet, they have about another week before they are going to be ready to pick.”
She poked her head out from the top of the tree. “We have to do this again?”
He chuckled to himself at seeing her expression of pure irritation. It was a look he’d grown fond of over the years. “Yes ma’am.” He heard her sigh and then he laughed. “Tired of picking already?”
She climbed down from her ladder and next marched over to him, awkwardly carrying her full bucket.
He smiled as she frowned. “If it makes any difference this is one section of the orchard. There are four other sections.”
“No!” She sank to the ground and sprawled out like a starfish. “Just leave me here and go on without me.”
He smiled at the playfulness she was showing him. “So dramatic.” He held out a hand to help her up. “The hard work is over, now it’s time for homework.”
“Speak for yourself. Homework is the hard work. Picking is the fun part.”
He paused and sat down next to a tree, stretching out his tired legs. So she thought picking was fun. Didn’t see that one coming. His chest lifted pleased to hear it. “Do you want to see the rest of the place?”
She rose to her elbows and blinked her green eyes at him. “You would show me?”
“Sure! Why not. We’re friends now aren’t we?” He held his breath and counted the seconds that passed. He didn’t want to set his hopes for such a short time spent together too high.
She looked away and then bit her lip. He could see the thoughts moving across her face. “Yes we are.” When her gaze met his, she smiled beautiful at him and the world shifted beneath him. He would remember that smile for the rest of his life.
“Come on then.” He helped her up and they slowly walked back to his small house where he took her around to the back porch. There he stopped at a very old water pump and trough. He turned and gazed out at his family’s land. He pointed to the cherry trees. “The orchard sweeps up and around the base of the mountain side like half of a wagon wheel. Each section opens from this point.” He tapped the old pump. “Creating a triangle like the inside of the spokes of the wheel. Each section is different. There are cherries, June gold peaches, red skin peaches, green apples, and red apples. My great, great grandfather traded a gold mine for this land.”
She walked out to the first tree of every section and touched the oldest of all the trees.
“Amazing. I wish I had a story like that. My dad bought the ranch when I was small with money he got when my grandpa died.”
The sun cast Sarah Jane’s skin golden and when she turned to look at him her eyes sparkled with unshed tears, yet she smiled. His heart beat for her in that moment and the intimacy they shared.
“We better get started on homework. I need to pass that test tomorrow,” she said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.