He gives me a long kiss, and my body wants to pick up where we left off.
“I just don’t want to get it dirty.”
I drop my sandals, toe into them, and lift the pie safe from the counter. I got less sleep because I stayed up to bake. Oh, speaking of that…I hand him the thermos of coffee. We’re both going to need that. “I’m ready. Where are we going?”
“I want to show you something.” He takes the pie from me and sniffs the plastic top. “Is this what I think it is?”
“What, and ruin the surprise?” I feed him his line from last night as he hands me up into his truck, and I scoot over to the middle. I’m greeted by the smell of fried chicken. “Perfect. I love The Prairie Chicken.”
He runs around and hops into the driver’s seat. “I was hoping you’d think it was homemade.”
“If it were, it’d be by your mama.” I roll up the window so my hair doesn’t get messed up, since it decided to cooperate today. Well, as much as it ever does.
“Hey, I can cook.” He puts the truck in drive and starts down the long dirt road to the highway.
“Shoe-leather steaks on a grill is not cooking.”
“The guys never complained.”
“That’s because they had a six-pack each before you fed them.”
He drops an arm over my shoulders. “Then it’s a good thing my future wife is a great cook.”
“Flattery may get you an apple pie, Cowboy.”
“Remind me to be sweet more often.” He kisses my cheek.
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.” I stay in the moment to keep from getting ahead of myself. I steal a glance; he’s focused on the road, his hand relaxed on the steering wheel. There’s no reason to think this is going to be my engagement day. Except, wouldn’t he try to act like it’s any other day, so not to spoil the surprise?
He would…if he’s planning a surprise. Otherwise, he’s just everyday relaxed.
Just in case, I try to memorize the day. It’s perfect. Monsoon season assures that it won’t get too hot, and the rain last week has brought out delicate little daisies and Indian paintbrush at the side of the road.
We ride, each to our own thoughts, until Austin turns off at the dirt road at the edge of his parents’ land. In the distance is his family’s weathered-to-gray, two-story homestead house. It housed three generations of the Davis clan, until his parents married and built a modern ranch house, a mile at the other end of the property.
“I thought we could have a picnic out here and not be disturbed.”
How romantic! My heart kicks in my chest.
We gather the food, and Austin snatches a blanket from behind the seat. “Mind the railing. I fixed the steps, but haven’t gotten around to that yet.”
I take the steps, his hand warm on my back.
I’ve been out here before, of course. We used to play house here when we were little. Well, I played house. Austin played cowboy, coming home to me after his ‘cattle drive’. The house is snug, but hasn’t been lived in for twenty-five years. The old-fashioned wallpaper is faded and peeling in places. The rooms are empty and full of the smell of dust and filtered sunlight. They echo as we walk in. I may just be sentimental, but I’ve always felt safe here; as if the decades of happiness seeped into the walls, and they now exhale it over me. I shiver.