Nothing smells more like summer than a freshly mown hayfield. Even in winter, when the hay bales gathered under summer sunshine are broken into, the scent is enough to take me back to those achingly bright, cloudless days, permeated by sweltering heat and steeped in sweat, working the field with my scythe, until the sun at last, fell below the horizon.
It was during one of these blistering, back-breaking days that I saw her.
. . .
Jesse swore vehemently beside me, fumbling in his pocket for his handkerchief and hastily mopping his dripping brow. “We’ll never get all of this done by the end of the month”, he growled.
I sighed and looked up from my hunched position, bent over the field, and followed my friend’s dismayed gaze to the surrounding crops, the red faced men and all the work still to do. Maybe he was right.
Abruptly my eye was caught by the sight of a wagon rolling in. Jesse noticed it too and an exhausted grin stretched across his goofy face. It was the beer wagon of course.
The vehicle came to a shuddering stop and hay exploded from the door hinge as it was flung open and men and women spilled out, laughing blithely and carrying great barrels with them as they did so.
We started down towards them, and it was then that I saw her ahead and stopped.
Jesse turned back to me before sharply shrugging and continuing down the slope. Jesse, such as he was, had a mind much too small to squeeze in more than one thing at a time and at present it was filled to the brim with thoughts of beer.
I smiled dazedly, gazing at a woman that had just got out of the wagon. She had sun-kissed skin and short, red hair and a sort of elegance in the way she knocked manure from her boots on the side of the carriage.
Our eyes locked and the earth moved.
I was going to marry her. I didn’t know her name yet, but it didn’t matter, not in the grand scheme of things. I just knew that the universe had chosen her for me, and I for her. I knew it like I knew the sky was blue, and that old Mrs Hartigan was thieving from the church collection box.
I could see half the men already had a mug in their fist, their scythe in the other, like a merry band of grim reapers.
I mentally rehearsed my lines. Should I offer to buy her a beer? Would she even want to talk to me?
I waved awkwardly as I approached her and attempted what I thought was a smile but was more likely a hopeful grimace.
All of a sudden she was right in front of me.
“Bloom’n heck, do you come with the beer?” shot out of my mouth before I could stop it. A miniature Jesse cackled from his perch on my shoulder.
Surprisingly she laughed. “You use that mouth to kiss your mother?” She asked teasingly, her eyes sparkling. I could see they were brown up close. Not a dull, dishwater brown though, but akin to the hue of an aged whisky that promised I could get drunk in them.
“I should like to use it to kiss you” I blurted. There it was again, I couldn’t stop. Now she would think I was a drunken lout.
Her eyes widened, and then the corner of her lips twitched and a giggle escaped.
“I’m sorry I didn’t me-“I started
“It’s alright”, she interrupted with a gentle smile, and primly offered me her cheek.
I bent to kiss it, and at the last moment, she turned and our lips met instead.
. . .
I was right, all those years ago. Rose did indeed become my wife a week after we met for the first time in the hay field. I continued working as a farmer and she came to see me and bring me beer every lunchtime.
Little did I know that whilst we were planting seeds of love, a different kind of seed had already been sown. Cancer.
It’s harvest time now and I’m out on the field again.
Lunchtime has been and gone, and no one is coming to bring me beer.