***Monroe dirt farm***
Abby sat in the brown and dying field of what had once been a grassy meadow. She knew that she should go to the high school and finish packing everything up. The superintendent said to just toss out all the props and costumes, but those things held too many memories. Not simply her own but hundreds of Sebida’s youth and young adults.
Miss Esther had sewn most of them herself. Though the woman had quit her job after losing her son Tommy to war, riding away on the back of a motorcycle with her Prince Charming, Abby liked to believe that one day she’s come back. She missed Esther.
Tommy had been one of her few friends in school, and Abby had spent lots of time at their house. The woman had been her grandmother’s most valued teacher. Miss Myrtle would have never cut back the English department or closed the drama club like this.
Abby stared up at the blue sky; there wasn’t a cloud in sight. This year there had been hardly any rain. The farmers and ranchers were having it tough. That was the school board’s justification for all the cuts. In tough times young people didn’t need no fancy mythology, ancient history, and play-acting. Good old English and math were what mattered. What those old curmudgeons didn’t understand was people needed their dreams. Of course, the history department had it worse. They were being told what they could and could not teach and how. If you robbed people of their history and dreams, it was always easier to control them.
She knew that she shouldn’t be too upset the school board had not offered her a contract. That wasn’t the type of environment she wanted to work in. It wasn’t even a good one for the young people anymore. Where had all her big ideas about democratic schools and self-directed learning gone?
She sighed as the dry red-brown dirt sifted through her fingers. “You can’t put dreams into a bank account, Abigail.” Now, why the hell would John Williams Cummins’s words fall from her lips? She hadn’t even thought about the man in days.
She broke into uproarious laughter. Less than two weeks ago, it had been his ring on her finger. One day she really should try to figure out how that happened.
“What’s so funny, Abby Jean?” Just Jack’s voice did funny things to her tummy. And other more exciting places.
“You don’t want to know. How did it go?” Jack had spent the morning talking with the elders and visiting his former employees. That couldn’t have been easy for him. She had offered to get up, shower, and go with him. But Jack had insisted she stay in bed a bit longer. Next time, she’d make sure she was up before he was, make him breakfast, and be more insistent.
He reached for her, and she went happily into his arms. Sometimes she still felt like this was a dream. And that she would wake up, alone and broke. Though money still worried her. Not that it wasn’t a massive issue for most folks right now. Between the economy and this virus, it wasn’t just the casino shutting down and laying people off.
She tried to think of something else. But uncertainty seemed to hang over everything and everyone right now. Like some specter of Christmas to Come. Jack buried his face in her hair. He loved the honeysuckle hair and body soaps that she made herself. But that was just another of her silly dreams.
“It’s going to be okay, sweetheart.”
But he didn’t know that. None of them could. No one did. It seemed the whole world had gone insane and was falling apart around them. And heating up.
He stood up and pulled her up with him. He tugged her hand, “Where are we going, Jack?”
“Close your eyes.”
She shook her head and giggled but did as he said. She usually did. It just came naturally. But she didn’t mind. Something told her Jack would always put her needs first. She trusted him.
Right up until she found herself pushed into the old pond. Not that she was in any danger. Even in a good year, the water was never higher than her waist. But now, it did not even come to her knees. If it weren’t for her wet dress, she wouldn’t mind at all. Actually, as unseasonably warm as it was, she didn’t care.
But she wasn’t letting Jack get away that easy. She scooped water into her hand and splashed it at him as he stood laughing on the shore. “You said you were heating up, Abby.” He held out his hand to her.
She shook her head and took it. She considered tugging a little harder and pulling him into the water with her. But he must have sensed that because he quickly took a couple of steps back, pulling her out of the muddy pool where her great-grandfather’s cattle had once drunk.
“I didn’t say I was heating up. In fact,” she frowned, “I don’t think I said anything at all.” Not that anything surprised her anymore.
His fingers brushed the corner of her mouth, “I know you’re worried, sweetheart. And I know that we all have the right to be. Nothing is ever going to be the way it was before, Abby Jean. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
He leaned down, his forehead touching hers as those calloused fingers caressed her cheeks. “Things are changing in this world. We both feel that. And I have seen so much more of it than I’d ever want you to.”
His face got a faraway haunted expression that tugged at her heart and made her want to do anything to soothe those demons that she knew still tormented her husband. Though he did not speak of his childhood or time in the Army, his cries had woken her the other night.
“One thing I know, black, brown, or any other color, no matter the god we worship, or how much money we don’t have, we all want the same thing. Food to eat, a safe place to call home, good friends we trust, and family. No matter what, we have those things here.”
“I know, it’s just….”
But she never got the chance to finish her sentence. The taste of his lips drove every thought and worry from her head. Her body suddenly burned for her husband hotter than any wildfire. She helped Jack pull her wet dress over her head and lie it on that hard-packed dirt. His shirt became her pillow as he lowered her dreamily back.
His hands seemed to be everywhere at once. And everywhere they trailed was alight with need, burning for him. When his lips left hers to trail down the side of her neck, Abby arched against him, rubbing against him like an old barn cat seeking affection. When she realized where his hands were heading, she writhed and moaned, thankful for the damp dress between her tender back and the hard ground. “Jack, please….”
But he was in no hurry. His lips and fingers taking a circuitous route. The longest way round, or so it seemed to her. Her fingers entwined in his dark hair, and she tried to urge his head lower. But that only succeeded in Jack imprisoning them above her head in one hand while the other continued his slow ascent. She whimpered, begged, and pleaded, but nothing seemed to move him. She would have fought back or taken what she wanted. She was that desperate. But it was useless. He had her wholly captured and at his mercy. Or the lack thereof.
Then he gave her the relief she craved. His lips trailing lower, brushing the swell of her breast in her bra as his fingers lightly caressed her mound. She whimpered, knowing that anything more was pointless. She trusted that he would provide what she needed, what her body craved. When he was ready.
His mouth captured her nipple through the soft lace that encased her breasts. At the exact moment, his fingers brushed aside the matching cloth between her legs, plunging into her depths. She arched off the ground, screaming her release to the heavens. They could probably hear her in town. And she didn’t care.
Jack released her hands, and together they fumbled with the zipper on his jeans. Then everything was right. Their bodies united in the most ancient of worship. They soared above green earth. They saw friends and family joined as one. And above all, they felt unconditional love embracing them and those around them. Hope. Abby knew hope again. Though she did not know precisely how or when. She had seen the future. Or they had. At least one possible future. One that they could have a part in building.
As Abby floated back to earth, it was Jack’s arms that cushioned her descent and broke her fall. And for the first time in days, bank accounts, mortgages, and jobs didn’t bother her. Jack was right. They had everything they needed. Food, not one but two homes, and good friends. And together with those friends, they would fight to build a better tomorrow. Right here in Sebida. This was where they belonged. And somehow where they would stay.
They stayed like that. Just watching the blue skies in one another’s arms. Sometimes words weren’t necessary. As the skies began to darken, they found the strength to stand. Abby reached for her dress to put it on. But Jack shook his head, and together they made the short trip back to their sunny, newly painted bedroom hand in hand.
And something told her they would for many tomorrows to come. He was right, nothing would be the same, but with friends and hard work, it could be better. A more just and sustainable tomorrow. And their love had given them that vision.