The Carriage Driver³ - Clover
It was God’s day. The couple walked their bikes along a low rock wall that disappeared over the rolling hills. They talked and laughed as young couples do. The sun was their friend. They were lost to the world and lost in each other. Time slowed down for them.
When they reached the top of a hill they saw an old tree up ahead with long sweeping branches. It seemed to call to them. Their pace was slow and deliberate. The breeze licked about the hem of her summer dress and turned over leaves to bake the other side.
The world belonged to these two and only them. They reached the tree. She took out the blanket and basket of food from the bike basket and let the bike fall to the ground. He took the blanket and spread it in the shade of the tree. She sat down the basket of food and slipped off her shoes. She walked around letting earth green, cool her feet. She reached back and took the rubber band off her hair that held her pony tail. She shook her hair as he watched.
In moments of breathless passion their clothes lay around the blanket where they landed. She lay in Robert’s arms, at the center of the world. He enjoyed the length of her, pressed near him as he pulled grapes, one by one, from a bunch and fed them to her.
“Do you have to go?” She asked.
“It’s war.” He looked at her. He wanted to remember every curve of her. She was his faith. She was his hope. She was his love.
“Can’t we just run away from war?” Her lips pouted.
“Where could we run?” He sighed as she pulled the length of her, away from him. He did not move as he watched her dress. Then he stood and dressed himself. God’s day was drawing to an end as they climbed on their bikes and followed that long short wall back the way they came.
Days later she saw Robert off at the train station. She could remember his smile, the waving good-bye, the sound of the train pulling away. She remembered how handsome he looked in his new uniform and most of all her heart set aside a place for the loneliness that followed. That place never healed.
She put her bike away after he left. There was a time where a flow of letters came and went. There were words of love and thoughts of passions. There were words of hopeful promises. Then the flow of words came to a stop. Their time had slowed, and then their time had stopped. The hands of the clocks kept ticking, but she never seemed, even after sixty years to get back on track.
“You must move on.”
“Time heals all wounds.”
People were so well meaning.
She married and had two children. She raised the children, and it seemed she raised the husband also. One by one they left. They grew up and moved on, even the husband. The reservior of loneliness knew no bounds.
The hospital bed was cranked up at the back and pillows propped her up. The TV played an old Sherlock Holmes movie that seemed to entail lots of time at an old London train station. The clouding steam and the hissing sounds and the gloom of night flooded in on her.
Captain Griffin Chaffey prepared the carriage. He took special care to polish the brass lamps; he waxed the leather and shined the spokes. When the carriage passed his inspection, he began to groom Nuelle. Her coat was brushed and mane combed out. He hitched her to the carriage. As he had seen the name in the book, he decided he may need a rack, and attached one to the back of the carriage. He felt pride in his work. He took an apple from his pocket and cut it into four pieces. Nuelle and Griffin had developed a ritual between them.
They felt good in the sun, as they waited on the Commons near the gazebo. The breeze swayed the leaves, reminding all, of unseen powers in the universe. Watching shadows dancing proved a delight.
Griffin saw her approach. He appreciated the sight of the young woman approaching, guiding two bikes. Her lips had a modest smile and her summer dress bounced about her.
“Hello,” she called as she got closer.
“Hello,” Griffin said as he stepped down.
Before he could help, she lifted one, then the next bike onto the rack. “So good of you to think of this.”
“We try to make you as comfortable as possible.” Griffin stood with his hand out to assist her step into the carriage. He did not offer the blanket that was always at the ready under the seat. “Are you comfortable?”
“It is a beautiful day.” She bent her arms and extended her legs back and forth, enjoying the new flexibility without twinges of pain. She sat and wondered what was different. She thought about her children and her husband. She knew they would be strong enough to survive. She could not put her finger on it. Awareness swept through her. She put her hands to her chest. It was gone. The reserve of loneliness was missing. She sat back, deep into the seat of the carriage and smiled.
Griffin gave Nuelle her rein. She walked along and the cobblestone path rang against her hoof and the wheels. Their passenger looked out along the path, as adults and children moved about in apparent directionless fashion. Some moved quickly in their pursuits and some moved slowly knowing the uselessness of hurry.
In no time at all Griffin reached the edge of town. “There are many paths available to you,” he told her. “If you have not thought about what you want to do next, there is a castle where we can deliver you. Many find it a pleasant wait. If that is what you wish.”
“Can you stop here?” When Griffin stopped, she climbed out of the carriage.
She climbed down. “Can you give me a hand with the bikes?”
Griffin climbed down and reached the back of the carriage in time to lift the second bike from the rack.
With the two bikes leaning against the carriage she hugged Griffin. “Do you have an apple?”
Griffin cocked his head and smiled. He reached into his jacket pocket and presented her with an apple. She opened the picnic basket on her bike and retrieved a small paring knife. The apple was soon cut into four pieces. She walked to Nuelle and fed two pieces to her. She handed one of the remaining pieces to Griffin and took a bite of the last piece. With apple still in her mouth, she leaned in and kissed Griffin on the cheek.
“Thank you!” She climbed on her bike and easily balanced the other one as she rode along a highway next to a low rock wall. Up ahead, she saw a tree with long sweeping branches.
As she approached, she saw Robert. There was a blanket on the ground and he stood wearing a brand new uniform. He waved when she got closer and moved toward her. She stopped and climbed off her bike, letting both bikes fall to the ground.
He reached her and lifted her off the ground in a bear hug. “My dear,” he smiled.
“My dear,” she replied.
They talked and laughed as young couples do.
“My dear, Clover, my faith, my hope, my love, and my luck.”