Edith never had any intention of painting her forearm olive green. It just sorta happened to happen. She stood under the afternoon sun and stared at the husky built man before her with utter defiance seething through her pores.
Aden only laughed.
“For your information, I was helping my son spray paint his crossbow.” Edith flicked her finger toward the woods behind the man. “He wants to blend in with nature. Makes perfect sense to me.”
Shaking his head, Aden strolled across the grass to a camp chair set before a fire pit. “His idea makes sense. Your arm on the other hand… Don’t you ever read directions?”
Edith stomped across the yard to the brooder house. “I read them. But they never mentioned anything about accidentally brushing your arm against freshly painted crossbows.”
Aden plunked down on the folding chair before the flickering fire, stretched, and leaned back. “I can’t leave you alone for a few hours without some kind of mishap or another.”
Edith stopped at the chick house door and considered her retort, but her eldest son, Cal, strode forward carrying a load of wood and dumped it at the base of the fire pit. “This should keep us for a while.” He peered at her arm. “Hey, what happened to—?”
Edith waved him off. “Don’t ask. I was just helping Nick with the manly arts of crossbow decoration—something you could’ve been doing—big brother.”
Cal blanched, his gaze flickering to Aden. “Hey, I mowed the lawn this morning, straightened the barn door, and turned on the outdoor well pump.” The young man crossed his arms in an attitude of defiance.
“And he got us an armload of wood. I’d say the kid has earned his pay for the day.” Aden gave Cal a nod of approval.
Edith shot Aden a sneer. “Unlike some people…”
Aden’s grin widened. “I’m here on vacation; remember? You’re the one who said that country life would relax me…take all the tension outta my overstressed body.” He clasped his hands behind his head. “Well, I’m relaxing. And you’re right, I’m not feeling a particle of stress at the moment.”
Edith rubbed her forehead. He had her, and she knew that he knew, that he had her. How could she admit, even to herself, that she had been entertaining fantasies of leaving her to-do list in the dust as they played games of volleyball or went to the movies? She glanced at the half-mowed yard and sighed. “I gotta take care of these chicks, or they’re going to expire, and we’ll have to eat pork chops all winter.”
Cal nudged Aden. “Want something cold to drink? I’m going in for a soda; I can bring one out.”
Aden nodded. “Sounds good.” He grinned as he met Edith’s gaze.
Edith swung on her heel and smothered a string of naughty words.
As the sun sank below the horizon, painting the summer field crimson and sienna, Aden stacked an array of used paper plates and tossed them on the low burning embers. He collected four crushed soda cans and lined them on the nearby picnic bench.
Edith watched his slow, deliberate motions as if viewing them from Mars. Her whole body ached in weariness, though it was a pleasant ache, like a drug-induced state of utter relaxation. Her body could take no more, so she simply had to give in to rest. As she licked the last crumb of chocolate cake off her upper lip, her eyes meandered over his muscled arms. “Uh, oh. You’re working… I thought that was against the rules.”
Aden chuckled. “It’s not work if you want to do it. I happen to like stacking paper plates and lining up soda cans.” He dragged his camp chair near hers and plopped down, the fabric straining against his weight. He lifted her limp hand and caressed her fingers. “You know, not all physical exertion is work.”
Edith groaned. “Don’t play with my mind.”
“It’s not your mind I was thinking about…”
Edith forced her body into an upright position and stared at Aden. “You’ve been here the whole weekend, and you’re clearly feeling better.”
Aden nodded, his gaze focused on the horizon. “That’d be putting it mildly.”
“Good.” With a sigh, Edith leaned forward and clasped her hands. “You know, I only want what’s best for you. But it never dawned on me that for us…I have to want what’s best for me as well. All work and no play makes Edith a grumpy girl.”
Edith pushed through her hesitation. “When I visit, you work like a madman to manage your job and keep me and the boys entertained. When you come here, I run the situation in reverse.”
A hound dog ambled over and nudged its nose into Aden’s lap.
“Seems like there should be a happy medium somewhere, doesn’t there?” Aden rubbed the dog’s head, his gaze wandering to the first stars blinking in the firmament. “Maybe we should do some projects together?”
Like a puppet yanked by invisible cords, Edith flopped back onto her chair, a boulder pressing on her shoulders. “Like Habitat for Humanity sort of thing?”
Aden snorted, rose to his feet, and stepped around the dog. He scooped the cans into an empty box. “No. Well, maybe down the road we could do something like that. But in the meantime, I could help you here, and you could help me at my place. Seems silly to be always trying to entertain each other when we’ve got more work than any single person can do.”
“It’s not work if you do it together? Is that what you mean?”
Aden stepped behind Edith’s chair and rubbed her shoulders. “I watched you scurry about this place like a rabbit running from a fox. Cal’s a great kid and even Nick helps out. But I couldn’t help but wonder—am I running through my days, rather than living my life?”
Warm peace seeped into Edith’s body. “Join the club. Human beings need to justify our existence…one way or another.”
“Though pleasant distractions also work well to pass the time.” He rubbed Edith’s shoulders a little harder.
Cal stepped into the faint circle of glowing light. “Hey, hate to break up your fun, but it looks like Nick might have stopped up the sink. Something about washing the leftover instant potatoes down the drain.”
Edith slapped her forehead. “Oh, Lord. I knew I should’ve made baked beans.”
Aden stepped away from Edith and clapped Cal on the shoulder. “Come on, kid, I’ll show you a new trick. It’s called plumbing with potatoes.”
Cal snorted and marched alongside Aden, his gaze focused on the kitchen light ahead, his smile widening.
Edith rose with a groan. In a state of happy exhaustion, she peered at the gloriously star-speckled sky and shook her head. Her life rotated with the universe—work, rest, and plumbing with potatoes.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page
“There are many excellent stories in this collection.” ~McEvoy
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