The sun above shouted summer, in all its golden glory, but there was a bite to the breeze, as though the wind that had brought it there had caressed the top of some distant snowy northern mountain, then carried that sliver of cold down into the valley and over our fields, to stab at our cheeks.
I watched Marlene shiver and knew that she'd felt it too. "But it's August," she said.
"The gods are reminding us of the inevitability of change," I said with a smile. She smiled back.
"They have an uncanny knack for choosing their moments," she said, and reached down into the dry earth below to pluck up a round stone. I was afforded a brief glance down the front of her sundress, and let my eyes linger on her exposed flesh for no longer than necessary.
Other men might have described Marlene as "ample", or "bountiful", as though her beauty were a crop yield rather than a human thing. She had always been larger than average, and strong. I loved every bit of her, and she knew it.
She blew on the stone, birthing a soft plume of dirt that billowed away from her full lips. As she turned the rock over in her hands, the thin promise band glinted gold on her ring finger. It was a perfect moment, and I did my best to capture it for later, when I'd sit at the easel in the firelight of evening and try to reproduce her with the oily strokes of a horsehair brush. I'd need more saffron, I thought. The scene was almost overwhelming in its yellowness.
"You're thinking of a painting," she said, and laughed. She could always tell. "That look of yours. Like you're daydreaming."
"It is a little like that, isn't it?" I asked. She laughed again and pitched the stone out over the dead sheaves of the fallow. I wondered at the little ritual I'd just observed and thought of asking her why she'd rejected the stone. But some part of me knew it had nothing to do with choice, and I held my tongue.
"I love you," I said, and she smiled and put her hand on my cheek.
"I believe you," she said.
2014.08.14 – 2023.04.13