The place he was headed was a little further out-a Mrs. Arianna Amaranth interested in selling or at least getting best value on a smallish place referred to as a “farmette” in the paperwork. She and her husband had been on the property for over 20 years. Following GPS he pulled off of the state road and onto a similar, but windier, two lane. Some places slipping onto a local road out in the boonies could be dicey but not here-where the local area, though bucolic, was some of the most expensive real estate in the area.
He slowed as his GPS counted down the feet to his next left turn. When he saw a break in the tree line he pulled off onto a tightly packed gravel drive. “You have arrived”. But John wasn’t sure where. He could see nothing through the trees and followed the gravel slowly until he rounded a bend and there it was. Small converted barn-two story living area-he would bet on reclaimed wood throughout. Very nice. Flowers and gardens abounding filling in around meandering stone walls.
He pulled off the drive onto a small gravel parking area in front of a three car garage. Like the house the garage had been built of rough-hewn lumber and though it looked like it could have been there for decades, John figured it for a recent addition to the place. As he got out of the car, a woman appeared from behind the garage and followed the trail along a wall toward him. “Mrs. Amaranth?” he asked.
“Arianna, please”, she said approaching.
He put her in her 40’s at least but it was a guess. Her light olive skin was smooth revealing nothing. Her black hair, pulled back in a loose pony tail was shot through with silvery streaks that could have been from the salon but were not. She was of average height but a bit stocky and bottom heavy which made her appear shorter. She carried her weight lightly, telling him that it wasn’t a new addition. She had a strong grip when they shook hands.
Dressed for work in jeans, canvas shirt and rubber boots she certainly looked the part of a gentle-woman farmer. The jeans were not the jeans that he saw on woman and girls at the clubs at night-sprayed on to adhere to every bodily contour. These were work clothes giving her room to move around inside of them. Her scent was something earthy and fresh-maybe sage or clover-mixed with a light whiff of sweat which glistened on the side of her neck.
There were peach trees out back in a small orchard as well as apples and too many to count variations of flowers placed deliberately about to look scattered. Her husband had headed to Phoenix on business last fall and had stayed. She traveled to and from a couple of times but life in the desert didn’t appeal to her after putting the last two decades into this wooded glen. While a long-distance marriage was never in their plans-here they were.
“I just thought it made sense to have this place correctly valued in case it becomes necessary to sell quickly. He’s not as young as he once was…”
“Who is?” said John pecking notes into his tablet as they walked along.
“You probably are….” She said. She was in front of him so he couldn’t gauge if there was anything in her eyes with that comment. Coming around the other side of the house he saw what looked to be an open shed against the peach trees.
“What do you have there? Old corn crib?”
“That’s the woodshed”, she said.
“That’s a place you try to avoid, I bet.” It was the kind of innocuous line he threw out a lot. Most times they weren’t heard or ignored or were so far off the rails that they floated off into space like the odd non sequiturs they were. Every once in a while though, the trout rises to the fly.
“You can try, but….” She shrugged “…sometimes…”
“Indeed. Can we have a look?”
“Of course”, she said, leading the way easily. The shed was two walled-front and back-open at the ends to let air move through to keep the wood dry. Being summer, it was not near full. She opened the rough latch on the door and let it swing inward standing aside. The inside was dim, relying on the sunlight at the ends and from the large open window front and back. There was a rough wooden bench, a heavy stump that looked to be a platform for splitting kindling and a chest high rail partition that would separate wood piles when this place was full.
Turning away and moving back toward the door his eye caught something that he wouldn’t have seen coming right in from the light outside. But there, hanging from a nail beside the door was an old rattan carpet beater. At least he assumed it was old-it certainly appeared to be in good shape.
“Keep a lot of carpets in here?” he asked Arianna who had followed him in and was clearly watching to see if he’d spot the implement.
“Not many”, she smiled. “I’m sorry, I forgot that was in here.”
“No need to apologize-it’s a nice piece.”
“I bought it at an estate sale a couple of years ago…thought it fit the building. Come on-it’s a woodshed. Even you alluded to its other….legendary use.” There was a sparkle to her tone.
“Sure, yes. It complements the place for sure.”
“I thought so”, she said settling it as they squinted back into the sunshine.
The walk back to his car felt more like a stroll than the business-like appraisal march when he had first arrived. Arianna would pick this flower or that-tell John what it was-have him smell it, or with the nasturtiums that climbed a trellis, invite him to pop one into his mouth to savor the peppery flower.
John was half listening but half thinking about the woodshed. Had she forgotten the carpet beater was in there? Did she remember and mean for him to see it? Was he the trout rising to the fly? There was no doubt she was stalling…trying to decide how best to turn this meeting into a visit. But she hadn’t figured it out by the time they reached his car.
He was reaching for the door handle when she asked him, “Could you come back tomorrow?”
“I don’t think I’ll have the figures ready by then.”
“Mmmm-that’s OK. Can you come anyway?”
“I can be here at one”. Actually he could have been there anytime, but he wanted her to have most of the day to know he was coming.
“Not till one? OK, I’ll just have to find something to occupy my morning.”
“Cut some switches. And trim the bark from them….”
She stepped closer to him, the corners of her mouth lifting slightly as her green eyes danced. She placed the index finger of her right hand into John’s chest and pressed lightly.
“Until tomorrow, then,” she said as she turned and walked back toward the house.
Continued here Peaches