A Return to Summer
Discovering First Love a Lifetime Later.
Corrine knew this summer was going to be great. Her bright blue eyes scanned the changing landscape. Living in the center of the Canadian Prairie Provinces, her eyes had become ill of seeing endless fields and a great, vast, featureless horizon. Yes, the sky was more prominent than big, an overhead ocean of blue in the day, and at night, a black blanket permeated with pinholes of gleaming glitter. But now, she was leaving the most often mundane existence behind.
Fantastically massive mountains loomed ahead; the West was a great granite wall. The North and South were staggering stone barricades and the green! The deep, rich carpet of green rolled over everything. It was endless. It was beautiful. It promised her the possibility of something new and something wild. Of course, she craved something wild, and the next two months would be spent at her Aunt and Uncle’s . Best of all was that she would be with her two older cousins, both of whom had their driver's licenses, and Kathleen even had her own car. Yes, she knew this was going to be a great summer.
"Could it be that two decades had passed since that summer?" she asked herself. She had forgotten about it, she'd forgotten about him, but when she had stepped into the old barn with the sun-soaked hay littering the edges, everything came rushing back.
The sun was pouring in from West facing windows, the air in the barn was sweet, with the scent of horses lingering even though it had been years since the stalls had been a home to them. Twenty years have gone, and there Corrine stood, flushed and dreamily recalling those lost summer nights discovering love and passion. The first time she'd fallen head over heels for a boy. The first time she'd ignored every worried plea her father made for her to take her time and wait before giving her body away. Turning her back, Corrine leaned against one of the wide wooden pillars; bringing her fingertips to her lips, she closed her eyes and felt those passionate, hungry kisses of young love. She felt the ache return.
Remembering the first night, when she had followed her cousins to a party at one of their friends. At the word of the event, Corrine shut herself in the girl's bathroom for hours. She was the new girl in town, and she was determined to make an impression. A long bath soaked away her anxiety as she daydreamed of who she might meet and how the local girls would treat her. Wondering what kind of boys would be there and what kind of story she would make up about herself to keep them interested.
Of course, there would be drinking, but she decided to be firm with her consumption and hold herself to no more than three drinks. The last thing she wanted to do was fall apart and make the night a train wreck. It was surprising how quickly that could happen if one wasn't careful.
Pushing off from the pillar, Corrine's fingers ran down the smooth, aged post that held decades of secrets while it stood steady, holding up the roof. "If walls could talk," she thought, "oh then these fine old pillars are witnesses to generations of secrets." With small, slow steps, she walked along, feeling the heavy floorboards beneath flex to her weight. Little puffs of sawdust and fragments of hay billowed up from the cracks between planks, a smile across her lips, Corrine continued the tour of the barn and revisiting her memories.
Closing her eyes, she remembered everything. She had worn her long, blonde hair straight with a tight braid woven into one side. With a delicate touch of make-up to make her look older than she was, she had wanted to walk into the party looking mature and matching the age of the other girls that would be there. Then, like a magnet, her head turned towards the kitchen, her blue eyes locked on the handsome brown-haired, blue-eyed boy staring directly at her. Tugging her cousin's arm, she asked, "WHO is THAT?" Her cousin followed Corrine's gaze and replied, "That's Andrew, and it's his house, his party."
Corrine had barely sat down on the couch between her cousins when she watched Andrew walking towards her. She remembered being unable to hold back a smile. Andrew smiled back at her, his eyes fixated. He handed her a drink, a wine cooler, and asked her older cousin who she was. Kathleen made the introductions; Corrine stood to shake his hand and accept the bottle.
She giggled out loud at the memory. There in the silence of the barn, her laughter floated away like a song. She still could not explain her eager reply to the next thing Andrew said.
"Hi! Say, would you like to get out of here? Maybe go for a ride and let me show you around town?" Just like that, he asked her to leave with him. To escape his own party before it got started. She remembered the leap in her heart and the quickening of her breath. She remembered how she barely hesitated.
"Umm, ok, but isn't this your party? Shouldn't you be here in your own house? You just want to leave?" Corrine replied.
"Yeah, but it's fine," his voice was sweet, his words confident, "It's going to be a party with or without me," he told her, "and besides, I really don't want any of these other guys thinking they have a shot with you. So leaving now is my best chance."
Corrine laughed out loud again as she peered into the empty stalls, "who does that?" she asked to no one.
But she didn't pause. Instead, she looked at Andrew and knew she wanted to go with him. To go anywhere, he wanted to take her. She would never be able to understand it, even now, so many years later, how she'd fallen for him in that instant. Completely. Like the books she read and movies she'd watched, it had happened to her. Love at first sight. He was smitten with her, and she was in awe of him.
Corrine's two-month summer break was a romance of afternoon trips with Andrew, his friends, and her cousins. Out to the rivers and lakes, hikes into old abandoned mines, following small mountain streams to waterfalls and cliff diving pools. Then returning home to her guardian's care before sneaking out the basement window to spend hours underneath the starry summer skies, held in his arms and lost in his words.
Corrine was still smiling, climbing the solid staircase to the loft, her fingers traveling the smooth banister. Looking across the loft, with remnants of hay still strewn across the floorboards and blown into corners, she asked her former self, "Where did you get that bravado, young lady?" If memories tended to be fleeting, the view of the loft held them firm.
It was near the end of their first month together, on a warm night's getaway, that Andrew drove her up to the lake. Parked beneath towering pine trees with only the sounds of the water lapping at the shore and the orchestra of nocturnal creatures, between tightly held bodies and deep, delicious kissing that she pulled back from Andrew with serious intentions.
Her hair loose from his fingers combing through, her shirt buttons mostly undone, she knew she wanted more; she wanted to give herself to him. She wanted him to be her first. She wanted to feel all of him.
Listening to her words, Andrew turned in his seat to face the steering wheel, returning his key to the ignition. Before turning over the engine, he looked at her and said, "Corrine, we can't do this here." For a moment, her heart dropped through her toes before his following words came, gently catching it and lifting it back in place. "I want this to mean something to you. It has to be perfect, and this old truck isn't going to be where it happens." Regarding his look, sinking deeper into his bright blue eyes, Corrine knew right then that she would give him anything he wanted.
"Do you trust me?" he asked her.
"Yes. I trust you," she answered.
He turned the key and started the truck. Pulling into his side, they drove, holding hands down the lake road in silent smiles and thundering hearts.
Andrew pulled off the main road and turned down a narrow track, then stopped the truck. Then, turning off the engine and killing the lights, he opened the door and pulled her out alongside him.
"There's a homestead down the end of this road," he began to explain, "It's just an old man now. His family has all moved on. He keeps to the house mostly. I've asked him a few times to cross his land to get to the river. A harmless, sweet old guy. He used to have cattle and horses, but now all that's left is his empty barn. It's far back from the house. He'll never hear us. We can go there. No one will bother us."
Walking to the south wall, Corrine peered out the small circular window overlooking the field packed with wildflowers, honeysuckle, and sage. She turned and followed the rays of sunlight that beamed through the glass, lighting the space at the far end of the barn. She followed the flood of light then sat beside its glow.
It was the moonlight that shone through the window that night. Entering the barn through an unlocked side door, Andrew pulled a woolen blanket off a bench and, holding her hand, led her up the stairs. Beneath the moon's spotlight, he laid the blanket out over the floor then kissed her lips with a softness that kept his hunger for her at bay. Somewhere between the truck and the barn, the two of them had shed their inhibitions. Looking into each other's eyes, their hands quickly removed each other's clothes.
Feeling the deliciousness of the memory rush over her, Corrine ran her fingers down the nape of her neck. "How wonderful it was to be so young and beautiful," she thought to herself, "and how wonderful it was to make love like that." The nervousness, the passion, the greed for one another. The youthful exuberance to only want more. She remembered the look in his eyes. The rapid thunder in his bare chest felt beneath her hand.
"Corrine," his voice direct but calming, "You're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. I think about you every minute of every day. When you walked into my house the night of the party, I knew my life changed forever."
Pecking his face with smiling kisses, he held her face; looking into her eyes, he told her.
"Corrine, this is my first time too." His shy confession unraveled what was left of a heart that used to belong to her alone.
"You know I'm in love with you, don't you?" he asked her.
"Of course I know, silly. I fell in love with you the moment you first looked at me." She replied.
When the letter from the lawyer arrived a few weeks ago, informing Corrine of Andrews passing, she had wondered why. When that summer came to a close, so did their romance. Life had moved on. When she held the second page of the document, tears came from emotions that never had. One brief, perfect summer romance a lifetime ago carried a lifelong love for her.
Holding the deed to the homestead, now in her name, she read his final words.
"I've loved you all my life. I love you still." Yours without end.