“Are you alright?” a soft voice with a bit of a draw asked me as it awakened me from my slumber. As I looked up I could barely see her, her purple coloring seemed to blend in with the darkening sky as sun began to go down and I realized just how long I had been asleep. “Are you alright?” She asked me as she knelt down beside me I could see a pair of lavender eyes first then the rest of her gentle face along with her braided sunset colored hair. Well I passed out around dawn in an unknown field somewhere and now I am being woken up by you. I thought to myself as I rubbed my eyes but instead answered “Yeah I guess so…Where am I?” I asked her back.
“You are in my family’s orchard in Fondant Fields at Concord Farms.” She replied while I continued to stare at her with her face full of concern. My throat felt dry and sleeping under a tree was not as comfortable as one would think it might be. “Are you hungry? Would you like for me to call someone?” She asked me as I began to get up. “Yeah, I guess so.” I replied a little surprised at her offer and I began to follow her though the orchard back to her home. Along the way she explained that this was one of her family’s farms, the other one was on the other side of the farm that bordered the north side of this farm. “We’ve been trying to buy it for generations now, but as it is it’s been in their family for a while and it’s not something they want to sell so easily.”
When we reached her home her family didn’t seem to be surprise to see me. This made me wonder a little. Because I don’t think my own family would have been so welcoming to some random stranger that fell asleep in their yard. Though her mother wrinkled her nose and informed me that I must shower and bathe before sitting at her table for dinner before saying “Aubergine fetch him some clean clothes from one of your brother’s rooms and point him in the direction of where the shower is and then I need you to help with finished up dinner with me.”
“So you get many people passing out in your umm yard?” I asked Aubergine as I followed her up the wooden stairs. “Well no, but we do get travelers once in a while looking for a place to stay and night or two that help out on the farm in return.” She explained as we reached her brother’s room. “Your brother won’t mind me borrowing his clothes? Will he?” I asked while I watched her pulled a shirt from one draw and a pair of pants from another. “Nope.” Was all that she replied before giving me a gentle nudge out the door and motioned to the one across the hall. “The bathroom is there just put the clothes you have on now in the hamper and they’ll get washed. When you are done you can join us for dinner if you’re hungry.”
At dinner the whole family was gathered even who I’d come to find out Aubergine’s eldest brother and family that lived in the farm house on the other side of their neighbor’s farm. I don’t think I ever saw such a large gathering of people that were related. “Is this a party?” I asked her, my question made her smile. “Nope, it’s just dinner like it is any other day of the week.” She replied as she passed me a basket of biscuits. “Everyone eats together like this every day?” I asked in amazement “Yeah though
we are missing Musca and his new wife since they are on a honeymoon... Doesn’t your family eat dinner together?” Aubergine asked me back in surprise. “I…uh…I haven’t really seen any of them in years and even before then not really.” I answered hoping that she wouldn’t ask me why I hadn’t seen them in all that time and thankfully she didn’t. I think that dinner was one of the best meals I had ever had at the time. Aubergine’s father explained how everything on the table came from their farm when I had said so after dinner.
Aubergine’s father was a large man that looked like he had obviously been working on a farm his whole life, and the same could be said for her 5 brothers that were there too. “So what are you running from son?” Smuckers Concord asked after dinner as Aubergine, her sister in-law, and her mother cleared away the plates. “I’m not running from anything.” I replied feeling a tad confused that he meant the girl that I had abruptly left yesterday. “A man just doesn’t find himself in sleeping in someone else’s orchard for no reason.” He pointed out before taking a sip from the coffee Aubergine’s mother brought us before sitting down with her own cup while Aubergine was told to set up the workers room in the barn’s loft for me. “Well I guess you could say that then.” I replied reluctantly though not giving any more input on why as I began to get up from the table.
“Now wait, hold on a minute I haven’t finished talking to you.” He said curtly while he motioned for me to sit back down while he finished talking in a serious tone “Now I am just going to say one more thing and I’m only going to say it once. Aubergine is my one and only daughter and its common knowledge that her fellow is due to propose to her any day now that he’s already asked my permission. I’ll have you know that the day she was born I got a shotgun with her name on it so don’t make me have to use it on you.”
Needless to say after that I was quite glad to get away from Smuckers Concord as I walked out of the house and to the room that they said I could stay in above the barn. Surprisingly as I climbed the stairs in there was no hay to be seen as I had previously thought that I might have been sleeping in. Opening the door I found Aubergine in there placing a small vase of freshly cut flowers on the night stand before tending to the already made bed. I watched as she stripped the blankets and sheets off to replace them with new ones taking care to fix it nicely even though it would soon be take apart when I would get into it.
“Why are you so nice to me? You don’t even know me or the things I’ve done.” I asked her suspiciously while I watched her finish getting the room ready. “It’s just how we do things here Roux. We’ve been through hard times ourselves so when we are going through good ones we try to help those who are down.” She said as she finished putting the blanket on the bed. “So you’re getting married? That must be nice.” I said trying to make conversation with her but she only said shortly before leaving the room “It is. Goodnight.”
Over the next few days I began to discover things about Concord Farm. First was that I got no cell phone reception which I tried desperately to find at first until I soon began to not miss the constant calls or texts. Second that I was really no good on a farm and had a lot of difficulty completing most of the tasks so I was delegated to picking fruit with Aubergine. And thirdly that I enjoyed Aubergine’s company more than anything. For the first time in a long time I actually to the time to sit and talked for a while without thinking of how I was going to get this one into bed.
The moments in the day that we both stole away in each other’s company as we would take a break from picking fruit in the orchard were some of the nicest as a cool breeze would come by. “Is this one ripe?” I asked her for probably the 10th time today as I pointed to an apple still hanging from the tree. “Don’t you remember how I told you to tell if they are ripe?” She called from over where she was picking apples as I heard her put down her basket. “The outer ones are all ripe right now and the ones closer to the tree will ripen later. So this one…” She said as she plucked easily the one I pointed to from the tree “is ripe, same as the apple next to it.” Truthfully I had listened to her when she explained everything before arming me with a stack of baskets but I was running out of things to talk about with her as I learned early on that her eventual upcoming marriage was not one of her favorite subjects, well with me at least.
To the nights that the rest of the family had gone to be bed leaving us alone down stairs by a small crackling fire that was slowly dying away to embers. In her presence things were just easier. “So what is Briocheporte like?” She would sometimes ask me “It’s busy, loud, and smoggy. Most of the berries there are fake. It’s really nothing at all like this. You’re really lucky to grow up here with a family like this.” I would reply. “Are you planning on going back there soon?” She asked me one night. “I don’t know. I’ve thought about it and I’ve thought about not going back. I guess I’m just waiting for some sort of sign or something that shows me what I should do. I know I can’t stay here forever” I replied to her question honestly. “I wish uh umm... I know.” she said after a moment before she would excuse herself to go to bed.The following day after spending the day with Aubergine again this time harvesting grapes for her family farm’s wine that was bottled on premises and shipped all across Sweet Land. There were so many different varieties it made my head spin just thinking about them or maybe it was spending all day in the sun. Whatever it was I was feeling a little bit wobbly that day. And without thinking I stood up quickly as I went to move over to the next row of grapes. Heat seared through my head as the ground felt like it rushed up to meet it. The next thing I knew I was on the ground with Aubergine over me again asked with worry written all over her face “Are you alright Roux?”
The sound of my own name never sounded sweeter than when it was filled with concern in her voice. “This is a sight I don’t think I could get tired of for the rest of my life.” I managed to saw as she produced a handkerchief from her pocket and began to dab at my forehead. “That would be something nice wouldn’t it?” She said under her breath before realizing it and when she did she could all but met my eyes while her cheeks blush deepened.
Later on that night I got my first glimpse of Aubergine’s fiancé Avocado, the two of them together at first looked like some farm country couple made in berry heaven. But through dinner I began to notice little things about Aubergine and the way she interacted with him. The way she slightly jumped when he tried to hold her hand to the troubled look she had on her face when she thought no one was looking and how she always tried to keep a comfortable distance in between them without being noticeable only confirmed on thing in my mind.
“You don’t love him do you? Thats why you get angry whenever I mention anything to do with getting married to him.” I asked Aubergine that night after everyone had left while we walked through her family’s orchard. “Yes, I do and we are going to be married eventually.” She said stiffly back to me as she looked away, but I stopped her. “Aubergine you don’t. I could tell from the look in your eyes that every time you smiled tonight a part of you was dying. Why are you getting married to someone you don’t even love?” I asked her again and this time I could see her eyes were shining with tears.
“Because it would be a good thing for our families, because I’ve known him since we were children and maybe because he’s all I have ever known when it comes to men. We’ve been sweet hearts since as long as I could remember and every night I hope that the next day I’ll wake up feeling the same way he feels about me.” She said shakily as her voice began to break as she looked away once again but this time it was to hide her tears as she wiped them away.
“Oh hey, Aubergine I’m sorry I didn’t mean to make you cry. I’m sorry; everything will be fine I’m sure.” I said to her lamely but it didn’t seem to make a difference. “Aw Aubergine come here.” I said as I pulled her over to me, wrapping my arms around her to hug her. I had been with various amounts of women from a startling age but holding this one in my arms right now made me unsure of everything, like I was doing it all for the first time again. Feeling the heavy pounding of my heart I was surprised she didn’t seem to hear it as she held me tighter while she seemed to cry silently. “Aubergine it will be alright.” I said to her again softly and this time she looked up at me and asked “How do you know?”
“I don’t” I replied before I kissed her as every cell in my brain screamed No! You’ll just ruin her like you do with everything else. As we stood there arm in arm in the same place she found me a few days ago a good distance from the farm, everything and more importantly everyone else. Aubergine returned my kiss for a moment before her head got the better of her and she pulled away from me as she said “No, we…I can’t. It’s just not right of me to do.” Before she hastily walked away there was nothing more I wanted to do than run after her but she was right this was something that we both couldn’t do right now with each other.
That night I laid in bed replaying our kiss over and over like a teenage girl milling over her prom night. So much I didn’t hear the light footsteps coming up the stairs until there was a soft knock at the door. “Aubergine what are you doing here? I mean I uh know it’s your family’s property and all but uhhh.” I started out saying but she simply pressed a finger to my lips as she shushed me before she come into the room shutting the door behind her.
Her hair was loose instead of in its normal braid while she was dressed in a pale lavender tee-shirt nightgown all which made her look innocent and almost younger than she actually was. “Aubergine…” I began to say after a moment that we just stood in silence looking at each other. “Don’t say anything, not right now.” Aubergine whispered before she kissed me.
Instinctively I wrapped my arms around her as she did the same, pulling each other closer as we stumbled over to one of the small beds. My hands roamed to explore her body as hers did so too, eagerly taking my lead. Soon her nightgown was strewn on the floor and all that was left upon me was my boxers. Back in familiar territory my body pressed on top of hers as I guided her slowly to lie down on the bed.
It wasn’t long before the rest of our clothes sans her underwear was discarded. But that was as far as we got as I went to remove the one last remaining article of clothing from her body I heard a small uncertain voice say my name “Roux?”
“I.. uh.. I’m… I’ve never done this before Roux.” Aubergine admitted, her face burning a crimson red before she turned away from me making me realize that she was more innocent than I had thought. “Hey it’s alright Aubergine. Do you want to stop?” I asked her gently as she sighed and said “Yes…I’m sorry. It’s… It’s just that I’ve always want to wait… until I get married. But I also wanted to be with someone that makes me feel the way I do when I am around you before I spend the rest of my life with someone that…well doesn’t make me feel that way. I thought that I could just come in here and do…it and as much as I want to I just can’t. I’m sorry I tried to be someone that I am not.”
“Aubergine don’t be sorry for wanting to stop.” I heard myself say as I could believe what I had just said and what I continued to say. “Don’t apologize for being yourself either. I honestly wouldn’t want you any other way than the way you are.” These word were a far cry from what I usually said when a girl had second doubts but here with Aubergine they were closer to the truth than I had been in a long time. “Do you mind if I uhh... put pants on?” I asked her with the ghost of my old smile playing across my face. “Sure and umm… Roux? Thank-you for ya’ know… understanding.” Aubergine said as she blushed and looked away to find her own clothes.
Though we were now both dresses she still remain sitting on my bed. “Do you mind if I just stay here for a while even though I made a fool of myself?” She asked shyly “Ok, you can stay here as long as you want to.” I assured her as I laid down next to her before she curled up next to me so we were laying face to face. “Can you tell me more about your life before you came here?” She asked with her eyes filled with curiosity as always when she would ask. “I don’t know what else to tell, I think you know my whole life by now besides some things that I’ve done that I am not so proud of now that I’ve actually stopped and thought of it.” I said cautiously as every night that we had hung out together I’d always been careful to skirt around this particular subject.
“What did you do?” Aubergine asked with her eyes wide open, before they were only filled with curiosity now they gleamed with it. “Like I just said, they’re things that I’m not proud of. I hurt a lot of people because I couldn’t get back at the people that had hurt me. Life in that city just consumed me and I know it’s a weak excuse but the more I think about it the more I don’t really care to go back there.” I said as I pushed a few stray hairs away from her face just as an excuse to touch her again since I didn’t know how she would react if I tried to take her in my arms while we talked and the last thing I wanted then was for her to leave.
“But if you don’t go back where will you go Roux?” She asked me and for a moment I thought but came up with no answer right away. “Maybe I’ll go to Sweet Valley, I have family there and I’ve always enjoyed the beaches there when I would visit. Or I could join my grandfather in his travels, you know he has been all around the world never staying in one place for more than a few weeks at a time. Maybe I’ll stay here and have a farm of my own.” I said only halfway serious about the latter with a little twinkle in her eyes Aubergine giggled “What you don’t think I’d be able to have a farm of my own or run it myself?” I teased
“Weeelll no not really.” Aubergine said with a smile that she tried unsuccessfully to hide. “What you can’t see me possibly herding cattle on a horse or even riding on a tractor?” I asked her as I begun to tickle her. “Stop.” She gasped in between laughing “You’re going to wake up my parents.” Reluctantly I stopped tickling and lazily laid my arm around her while she remained snuggled up close to me.
“I was hoping that you would end up with my arms wrapped around you again tonight.” I said to her sleepily “Why is that?” Aubergine asked me just as tired as I was and even though her head was lying on my chest I knew somehow her eyes were already closing in a way that gave me the confidence to say what I wanted to say to her next. “Because being with you makes me happy, you make me remember who I was before my life fell completely apart.”
When I awoke the next morning Aubergine was long gone. At breakfast she gave me small smile as she handed me a plate full of eggs, hash browns, biscuits and sausage links. When we set to finishing harvesting the grapes she didn’t mention the night before at all. Which disappointed me as she acted like nothing at all had happened, but I guess that was her way of dealing with things. Though when it was long after the sun went down and the rest of the household was asleep she came to the room I was staying in again. Once again we spoke quietly in the dark and fell asleep in each other arms with her waking up an hour before dawn to sneak back into her own room. This went on for a few more days as I began to ponder certain thoughts that revolved around what was going to happen when I would leave soon. I’d probably never see Aubergine again and she would marry that guy. These thoughts were often quickly shoved out of my mind as most unpleasant ones were.
But as much as I tried to push it away it was always there in the back of my mind nagging away in a way that reminded me of my mother’s insistence of Ashen and I doing chores. “Aubergine would you umm…” I started out to say as we were once again in the orchard picking more apples. “Would I what?” She asked me back with a smile looking completely at peace with everything and here I was, wanting to take her away from it all. “Well what is it Roux?” Aubergine asked after I stood there for a moment gapping at her.
My mind was blank besides what I wanted to ask her so I took to my impulse again and kissed her. And this time she didn’t break away or anything but wrap her arms around me.For the first time since I had been there I got cell reception and it couldn’t have been at a worse time. Standing in the orchard with my lips pressed upon hers as I kissed her the sudden sound of a missed message on my phone knocked us both down to reality. Reluctantly we pulled away from each other as I caught a glimpse of sadness in her eyes.
Been trying to reach you all day, my father your grandfather has passed away. Please call me back. Where ever you are, I will send a car, plane, or train to get you just please call.
As I read it the message I knew that I had to do the right thing and finally leave. And with a cold realization I knew that my time with Aubergine was over unless we both did something drastic “Run away with me Aubergine. You don’t want to really get married to him and I don’t want you to get married to him either. We’ll be together just as we are now but forever.” I asked her desperately or rather I begun to plead with her. But she just said sadly before leaving me alone in the orchard. “I just can’t leave Roux. There is so much expected of me that I just can’t up and go away with you. I’m sorry.”
Later after I made a phone call and arrangements I announced at dinner that I would be finally leaving. “Well we’ll miss you around here Roux.” Mrs. Concord said afterwards as I caught Aubergine’s eye for a moment before she looked down at her plate to hide the emotions on her face. As her father wished me luck in whatever my new ventures might be after the funeral.
I didn’t really have anything to pack, the only thing that I had came here with was the clothes on my back and that was exactly what I was leaving with. So there was nothing more that I could do before my transportation would pick me up in the morning. While I laid in bed trying my best to fall asleep Aubergine opened the door quickly without even knocking and closed it even quicker. As I scrambled up she said “They want me to get married to him Roux. And even though we’ve been sweet hearts since childhood there is nothing I know more than the fact that I don’t want to marry him. I do love him but not enough to want to spend my life with him. The whole thing terrifies me so please let me come with you. The thought of you slipping away scares me more than spending the rest of my life with someone I never really loved. When you kissed me in the orchard where I first found you I never felt anything like that before, I felt alive. So please just take me away with you when you leave.”
“You know your family probably won’t forgive you for running out like this, especially with a guy like me.” I said to her gently for as much as I wanted to take her with me I was hesitant to do anything that might upset her almost perfect way of life. “I don’t care I just want to go with you.” Aubergine said insistently but I was still a little wary “You might now care now but someday you will. Are you sure you are willing to take that chance with me? Someone you’ve only known for a short time?” I asked as she shook her head yes as she tightly closed her eyes and answered “I’d rather be alone and happy with you than miserable and surround by them.”
That night after I snuck back into the house and quietly changed my traveling arrangements to pick us up early from an Inn that was in town, we left. Walking quietly away from her childhood home as a cold wind breezed by us she held my hand as I held her suitcase with the other, dressed in the clothes that I had come in. After paying the innkeeper we fell asleep shortly later as soon as our heads hit the pillows. Because as the sun was slowly rising we were up again and waiting outside the Inn as a long black limo pulled up.
The back door opened up without even waiting for the driver to open it and Ashen of all people stepped out. “Hey man what are you doing here?” I started to ask before he managed to deck me right in the face as Aubergine gasped. “That’s for our mother. It shouldn’t have taken our grandfather’s death for you to return one of her calls.” He said to me angrily “Alright I deserved that.” I admitted as I touched my and felt something wet while Ashen got me a napkin from the back of the limo. “Now that that’s done let’s go” He said as he handed it to me.