“Your first harvest should be soon.”
My chest swelled with pride at Christopher’s observation. I stood, making my way towards him, as I dusted my hands off on my shorts, “You think so?”
“Gots to be soon, strawberry season is right around the corner.” Christopher leaned against the white picket fence, two brown bags crinkling in his fists as he spoke.
My farm was mostly strawberries and blackberries, and the strawberry season was followed directly by blackberry season, which meant I would be a contributing member of society soon. The prospect excited me; everyone said that I was no hassle, not to worry, but I had been mooching off of the Levitt’s for more than a month already. If Christopher hadn’t purchased a small fishing cabin on the outskirts of town, I wouldn’t even have room to call my own. At least, not one that didn’t make my blood run cold.
I forced that thought from my mind, “What’s in the bags?”
Christopher handed one to me as he climbed over the fence, “A thank you fer comfertin’ Christina yesterday. She’s been bakin’ up a storm all mornin’, ya know how she is, so I figured I’d make us some sandwiches to go along with the sweets.”
I peeked inside, feeling like a school child whose mother had packed their lunch. Only now, there was no one for me to trade with. The sugary scent wafting from the bag reassured me that wouldn’t be necessary, “She made cookies and muffins?”
“Wait till you get home. The whole kitchen is full of cakes and pastries,” Christopher sighed, “She won’t tell me what happened. Said you already took care of it.”
I laughed, imaging ‘Tina having to explain to ‘Topher about her sexual experiences with Aiden. Her face would have burnt to a crisp, “Don’t worry, she just needs some time to work through it on her own.”
“By bakin’ every dessert known to man?”
“Hey now, we all work things out in our own way. Christina bakes.”
“You’re right. Should have seen the house the day you left, I don’t know if I ate anything besides pie fer a week.”
I glanced away, guilt fizzing in my stomach, “I hope they were good, at least.”
“They were,” Christopher paused, trying to meet my gaze, “Wanna eat together? I have a blanket in my truck.”
“Yeah, sure.” I agreed. If my discomfort at his comment had been noticed, Christopher was doing a good job at pretending he hadn’t.
I crossed the field, heading towards the southwestern corner of the farm. There a stone bench was nestled under a large Elm tree, sunflowers rose overhead – some over ten feet high – as lavender and Iris provided bursts of color. It was my mother’s favorite spot in the whole town, and she had spent many afternoons reading me stories under this tree. I rooted around in the bag while I waited for Christopher, pulling out a saran wrapped ham and cheese sandwich on a hoagie roll. Picking at the crust I noticed it had lettuce, mayonnaise, and tomato on it – the pickle and mustard that usually accompanied the recipe conveniently missing.
“You said you made this, ‘Topher?” I was confused, and it showed on my face.
“Ya, why? Is something wrong?”
“No, it’s just…. I hate pickles and mustard.”
“I know,” He spread the blanket out on the grass, “Did I give you my lunch on accident?”
“No. No, this is perfect. Thank you.” It was a silly thing to be humbled by, but the fact that Christopher knew any of my likes and dislikes made me incredibly self-conscious.
There was a steady stream of conversation as we ate; mostly about his deliveries and the other odd jobs he had procured around town. I tried to listen but was acutely aware of how small the blanket was, how our knees kept brushing, how drawn I was to the shapes his lips were making. The impromptu picnic, the home-made meal, it all felt surreal – like a date on some t.v show. Only, it was Christopher. My best friend’s brother – and her little brother at that. I couldn’t possibly see him in that light.
“Willow?” Christopher’s clear voice eased me back into reality.
“Huh? I’m sorry… what did you say?”
“I asked if you wanted to go fishin’ with me tomorrow mornin’. I have the day off, and we used to go together when we were young.”
“You used to beg your father not to take me with you.”
Christopher chuckled, “Well, I thought you had cooties.”
“Yeah, well, maybe I still do.” I stuck my tongue out at him, “but as long as you don’t mind catching my cooties… sure. It’s a date.”
The word date had rolled off my tongue before I realized it. A Freudian slip, they called it. Warmth spread across my neck and chest, and it wasn’t from the sun, as my tongue clumsily tried to form words but mumbled unintelligibly instead. The moment stretched for an eternity. Yet, when Christopher liberated me from my stupor, it had only been a few seconds.
“I’ll pick you up at 6?”
It was such a simple statement, with no expectations attached to it, and I wondered if I had I put too much thought into the word; if my embarrassment had been over nothing, “Yeah. Yeah, 6 is good. I should, um, get back to work though.”
Christopher followed my lead as I stood. He balled up the blanket with all of the trash inside of it, only pausing to look at me once he reached the gate, “See you tomorrow?”
“See you tomorrow.”