The barn was in clear sight of the house. He built it that way so that she could see it from the kitchen window. She watched him while she fussed about doing her lady duties, he would say. He liked to know that she kept an eye on things, on him, while he worked. Feeding the pigs and tending to the hens. He was outside all day, with the animals, thinking only of her. Farming can be lonely. But not for him. He wore a smile all day, knowing that she was there, in the window of the kitchen, looking down on the barn, counting the minutes until he would be coming in for lunch.
When the barn went up, it was quite an endeavour. Everyone came, family and friends, all those who were able to swing a hammer. Some pitched tents in the field to sleep in. Some slept in the house. Ruth kept busy all day preparing food for those working and even for those that came to play. The barn building urged a great hunger, one that she satisfied with home-baked pies and cool steeped teas and lemonades.
It took the better part of a week, but when it was finished, it was a marvellous sight. Visible for miles, the structure soaring to heights never before considered in the county they settled in. He had wanted the most enormous barn, the most practical and functional design around. Ruth knew he was a visionary, some might have thought him a dreamer, but Ruth knew the truth. He insisted on having a hayloft that encompassed the entire second level, suitable for storing hay for the duration of a year. He built individual stalls for all of the horses and pigs and a considerable chicken coup where the eggs would be ready for collecting each morning. Large swinging doors opened out towards the field, allowing the tractor to be pulled out of inclement weather. There was plenty of space for the sheep to make a home during the chilled winter months. And sufficient enough room for him to think.
The barn became his sanctuary, a place that gave him peace. The crops didn’t always produce a harvest sufficient enough to support their needs. Weather sometimes took a swipe at them, hail or tornados leaving their mark on the produce he had planted. That which was intended to feed them through till spring. The barn provided him refuge. It was safe in the building he had built, where the animals chattered, and the doors creaked with the wind. He spent the afternoons there, knowing that Ruth was watching him, from the kitchen sink where she peeled apples for a pie.
He moved some of their mementos and souvenirs from their lives before each other into the barn. He put the items into a sheltered corner away from the horses, in trunks and crates for safekeeping. Nevertheless, the past lived on in the barn. Ruth’s golf clubs with hickory shafts a gift from a lover before him, old photos, and letters. His Bell and Howell movie projector and Disney films of Steam Boat Willie. Originals that he had been given as payment for delivering a truckload of moonshine to Walt himself. A patchwork quilt that his mother had made for him decades back. Things that made him smile stayed in the barn.
Life wasn’t easy for them on the farm. He felt time and again that Ruth was disappointed in the choices they had made. Obtaining the farm had been a yearning he had, a fire that burned in his loins, not Ruth’s. She was a big city girl; adapting to living amongst the filth and rubbish of the farm had been a trial of her faculties. He caught her once speaking to someone that wasn’t there, a phantasm. But she got the answers that she needed, and Ruth, she stayed. She stayed, and she made the best of it. Cooking and baking for neighbour folk and family, and of course for him.
On summer evenings, just before the sun fell from the sky, if he felt just right, he would pull out the record player and set it carefully on a haybale. All of Ruth’s beloved records from her single days had been prudently preserved, stored in a crate kept dry and away from the pigs and the sheep. Her favourite swing singer Billy Holiday would croon the words to I’ll be Seeing You, and the two of them would dance. The hay crunching under their feet, laughter filling the loft of the barn. They didn’t need the fire of whisky to ignite passion between them. They had each other. Ruth watched him all day, that's all she needed. She enjoyed his calloused hands on her skin, his soft lips gently meeting hers. They would dance while the moon woke from her slumber, lighting the night sky with her brilliance, reminding them of just how lucky they were.
The barn began to age. It grew old as he did, greying around the edges, losing elasticity, becoming frail. It began to creak and sag. The wind loosening tiles from its roof. Fewer animals inhabited the stalls. The hay in the loft was no longer fresh every fall. The barn sighed heavily in the heat of summer and shuddered when the snow fell vigorous and blustery just before Christmas.
Ruth could still see the barn from her kitchen window. She smiled as she washed the dishes from the morning breakfast, her cereal bowl left to dry atop a dishtowel on the counter. Her fingers ran through her now grey curls as she slipped her naked feet gently into his rubber boots. Then, sliding his coat on over her nightgown, Ruth let the door slam behind her as she made her way to the barn to feed the chickens and collect the eggs.
She could still smell him there, in the barn. The musky scent wafting through the air, reminding her of moments shared. His aftershave, the Brylcream he used on his hair, smells she took for granted when he was alive. The walls whispered to her as she moved around, telling tales of their love affair. Ruth clung to a softness abundant in the old barn, gentle touches, laughter and struggles. The challenging days were faded now, a blurred and hazy grey. They weren’t crisp and vivid as those that pleased her. She let them go. Keeping only the memories that were of a delight to her.
The sun wafted through the loft door, dust floating about shining like diamonds. It shed light on the corner where he had placed the mound of their history. Items collected before they knew each other but that were integral components in constructing each other’s existence. Their identities formed from birth; it was what had made one attractive to the other. Her own journey had been much different than his, the make-up of each mandala utterly independent of the other. Nevertheless, Ruth knew their paths had been destined to cross. Intertwined and connected, soul mates who found their way in the barn.
A rectangular structure built to shelter the animals provided a frame that housed their truths, pain, love, and suffering. Constructed of natural wood, the barn remained standing, its skin now weathered. Yet, its solid and rigid fibres were embedded into a dense matrix of memories creating an illusion of strength. She wept there, beneath the cover of the hayloft, wearing only his rubber boots and her nightgown, missing him and a life that was not perfect but that she loved intensely while watching for years from the kitchen window.
About the Creator
Taught by some of the greatest literary minds of this century, Sandra's delivery method is reminiscent of her mentors and yet uniquely her own page-turning style. Her novels are suspenseful, unpredictable, & thought-provokingly colorful.