The clear chime of the doorbell ripped me from my dreams. A groan escaped my lips, along with a few curse words, as I pulled my comforter over my head.
Surely the visitor would go away.
I sighed, braving a peek out at the alarm clock nestled on my night stand. 6 am. Who in their right minds rang someone’s doorbell at 6 am?!
“Oh Maker, I am coming!” I shouted, throwing the safe haven that was my blankets onto the floor.
Every step closer to the door brought more annoyance to the surface. My eyebrows were knotted, my hair was a mess, and I could feel my lips tugging down. I had never been good at hiding irritation, and while I considered myself fairly level-headed, it had gotten me in trouble before.
I swung the door open, ignoring the smack it made as it slammed shut behind me, and was greeted with Christopher’s unsure gaze.
The anger dissipated as quickly as it had arisen.
“Good mornin’, Willow. I was just droppin’ off some seeds and soil fer you, but I can swing by later.” He was rubbing his neck as if he was the one who had done something wrong.
“No, no, no. No. I just forgot you were coming today, ‘Topher.” My hands were whipping through the air as I spoke, frantically trying to break the tension between us, “You’re doing me a favor, you shouldn’t have to come back. Please, come inside. If you wait just a minute I’ll change, and I’ll help you unload.”
Christopher nodded, following close behind as I lead him into the living room. I patted my sectional before heading towards the stair, “Just make yourself comfortable, I’ll be right back.”
I practically sprinted to my room as soon as I was out of sight, all previous exhaustion gone from my muscles. On the floor was the pile of clothes, still strewn about and unorganized. I rifled through, stripping as I went before I tugged on the first simple T-shirt and shorts I could find. It was only spring, but temperatures in the Willow Creek were already well into the 80s.
“Alright, I’m ready.” I called, taking the steps two at a time.
Christopher was right where I left him, standing awkwardly in the foyer, “That was quick. I remember it used to take you hours to get ready.”
I ran a hand through my messy bangs, the rest of my dirty blonde hair already controlled by my signature braid, “It still does.”
“I should have known. Christina still takes forever.” He said.
“I bet she does, her hair is even longer than it was before. Anyways, let’s go.” I clapped my hands together in a show of enthusiasm, brushing past him and back onto the front porch.
His beat up truck was filled with flowers and plants. I paused, unsure if those were all for me and completely overwhelmed if they were. It looked like a hundred different species.
“Don’t worry, I have other stops after you,” He said over his shoulder.
Christopher loaded his tanned arms up with potted plants after gesturing towards the seed packets that were strewn on his passenger seat, “Oh, wow! I wasn’t expecting to get fully grown crops. This is too much.” But before I had even finished my sentence, Christopher was shushing me and heading towards the small farm behind my house.
“You can’t make money off of seeds fer months, Willow. I wasn’t goin’ to let you starve – or go bankrupt.”
I followed behind him, “I appreciate that, really, but I can’t just take all of this. I have to pay you guys back somehow or – what? What is it?” Christopher’s stunned expression stopped me in my tracks. I followed his line of sight to the garden.
“Everything is dead.” He muttered.
“Oh, um, yeah. I guess I need to clear those out, huh?” I had forgotten about the death and decay.
“Maker, Willow. You’re gonna need help.”
“Yeah, I am gonna need the Maker’s help.” I agreed, but then instantly regretted my decision when he placed his load onto the ground and hopped my fence, “Hey, what are you doing?!”
“I’m here. You need help. I’m helping you.”
I wasn’t nearly as nimble as Christopher, so I headed through the farm gate, “Christopher! I did not mean your help! Maker, I can’t even pay you – put the spade down! You have other deliveries, remember?” I didn’t even know where he had gotten the spade from, but he paid no heed as he began to uproot some of the deceased crops.
“Don’t worry about that. I can do them later. You’re more important right now.” He said.
“Christopher, I -” He looked at me for a minute, blues stern and determined, and I knew there was no talking him out of this, “Alright, fine. But I’m gonna pay you one day.”
“I’ll hold ya to that.”
The sun soon rose to its apex. The two of us had managed to get rid of all the dead crops and had even planted a few of the potted plants he had brought over. We were soaked with sweat, dirt was embedded beneath our nails and grass stains adorned our knees. Christopher wiped his brow with the back of his hand, sitting down among the potatoes and blackberries. I joined him. It was the first break we had taken and I was exhausted. The only reason I hadn’t taken one earlier was pride – I wasn’t going to let Christopher work harder than me when he was the guest. It wouldn’t have been right.
I crossed my legs, allowing my muscles to relax, just in time for my stomach to wail. Loudly.
Christopher rose a chestnut brow, “Hungry? We can go grab some grub.”
“I’m actually starving,” I confessed, “but I’m broke. Seriously, if I emptied my pockets right now cobwebs would be involved.”
Christopher chuckled. The sound was deeper than it had been four years ago, “It’s on me. Just think of it as two old friends catching up. We can go to that burger place you and Christina used to love.”
“Benny’s?! Maker, it has been too long!” I could barely contain my excitement. Christopher made it to his feet before offering me his hand. I took it, feeling my calves quiver as the were forced to carry my weight.
I would never have considered Christopher a friend when I was in high school. He was my best friends little brother – I had known him since he was in diapers. I knew how annoying he had been, had watched him turn into an awkward pimple riddled teenager.
Now, as he helped me into his truck, I knew I could call him one, “You realize I’m gonna pay you back for the meal too, right?”