Ivy couldn't remember an early September so hot and so stifling. The last seven days had all seen record high temperatures and humidity, records that had stood for decades fell, nighttime temperature had been warmer than the average daytime highs. A haze hung over the treetops that made it look a cloud forest from the pages of a ational Geographic she found in the attic. But what really caught her eye and imagination as she drove into town was the number of trees that were already starting to turn. Determined to get her groceries and go home as quickly as possible, Ivy resisted the temptation of looking over the bargain plants at the entrance to the store. Though on her way out she paused, knowing that she couldn't pass up homeless plants especially at bargain prices, she was going to take something home.
She chose a pair of holly bushes and a couple of fruit trees, as she was paying for them the young man behind the register said " take this little mungo pine, please , Mrs., Cummings, it's damaged and no one will buy it, besides it kinda looks like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. " he quickly added "no charge." " Well how can I resist that. of course I will." she said. "If you wait a second I'll carry them to your car." he replied. "Now that is and offer," said Ivy "I just cannot refuse." Ivy wondered how he knew her name, she didn't recognize him. " My Grandpa says, that planting a fruit tree is the greatest expression of optimism.", the young man said as loaded not only the trees, but her groceries into the Ivy's vehicle. "Thank you very much, Ivy said, "For you. " she said as she pressed a bill into the lad's hand. He smiled and acted very much like no one had ever done that before, "Thanks, Mrs.C." and he was off across the parking lot.
She almost got out "Your Grandpa sounds like a wise man, I'd like to meet him." , but the lad was already back to his trees. All of this left her wondering, and convincing herself, that it was just one of those things, and the heat might have made her giddy. She rolled down the windows, if she turned on the AC it would feel even more miserable when she got out of the car and had to carry her purchases into the house. The town was very quiet, no one on Main St., no children in the playground, no one pottering in the yards.
Ivy began to wonder how she was going to cope with the heat and the gnats as she planted her new orphan plants.
She carried the sacks into the house, and when she glanced out the window she saw Skye rocket across the lawn, being chased by Millie who was being chased by Mike. she put the milk and eggs away, then went out , Mike was still chasing Millie but Skye was standing near the faucet waiting for a drink. Ivy turned it on until there was a steady drip and Skye stood up as tall as he could and slurped up the cold dripping water. By the time she got back Millie and Mike were there also. "Won't they let you get a drink?" Ivy called. "NO!" little hogs!" Mike replied, and laughed. "Ivy, you have an admirer. Someone sent you flowers while you were out. I'll get them after we help you plant the tress." he said. Ivy beamed, yes, I do have an admirer and every now and then I get a plant or flowers. I used to think it was a beau from high school, Will stole me away from him and he never forgot me, anyway I would like to think that. I should have been a romance writer, shouldn't I? Now lets get these trees watered down and tomorrow when the ground is wet, plant them." Mike smiled broadly, as he carried some of the trees into the shade of the apple tree , and after watering them he soaked his shirt with the glacially cold well water. Gathering up the exhausted Millie, and glancing over his shoulder said, "Come over for supper, Jeff always makes too much chicken salad, I hate chicken salad.
See you about five."
At first Ivy was hesitant, but then she was also hungry, and Mike and Jeff where such good company. She made a large pitcher of lemonade and walked over. Jeff met her at the door, with a big hug. "When Mike told me you were coming over, I had to make a dessert or I would have been over with your flowers, oh Lemonade, perfect!
I met your admirer, he seems really nice, nothing but the best for our best neighbor!
There was a card, let me go get it." And before Ivy could get a word out Jeff was back with the card, and ushering her into the kitchen, the table was set, and Mike was looking very impatient, as was Millie, a ndJeff rambled on. Ivy opened the card and read it, who was Mell? Mell, she couldn't recall anyone one named Mell other that the former Mayor, but he was as old as Gus, still he was a very nice person. Jeff was still talking when her head cleared and she felt compelled to interrupt, and say, " You shouldn't have gone to all this trouble, I would be thrilled if someone made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of Kool-Aid for me" The room dissolved into laughter, Mike chimed in "Can we PLEASE eat now? Jeff, everything looks perfect. Chill, and lets dig in."
Ivy was escorted to her door by Mike , Jeff and Millie, joking and laughing, despite the heat and clouds of gnats, they were enjoying the walk. Once inside she put the stargazer lilies in their Mason jar on the kitchen table. She was getting tired, it had been a much more exciting day that she had thought it would be. Sitting at the table for awhile, enjoying the beautiful flowers and watching the sunset through the window. Slowly she got up and went to Mr. Chips' cage.
"Goodnight, Mr. Chips." she said as she covered his cage, " you can see the heat lightening, so it will rain soon." She picked up her fan, the one with the red and gold designs and a large bottle of ice water, and made her way to the attic. When she opened the door there was a rush of hot air, like opening the oven, only this oven smelled of old wood and old stuff, not cookies. Ivy could feel the beads of perspiration forming on her arms as she reached for the switch to turn on the "office fan". a prize she found at a yard sale, all those years ago. The cool breeze from the old fan was refreshing as she settled into her rocking chair; it's reassuring rattle was like a lullaby.
The days were getting shorter, sun had already set and one by one the lights came on, one by one people appeared at the window and waved, Ivy waved back to each one. This wasn't a good night to be sitting in a sweltering attic, she switched off the fan it's chipped brownish, bronze paint, caught the glow of the moon. Then made her way downstairs.
Her room was cool relative to the attic rooms, Ivy still switched on the fan, and sat in the chair by the window for a better view of the lightening streaking across the sky. her feet propped up on the dressing table, she began to think, but sleep over came her. Wind driven raindrops coming through the opened window, and the sound of thunder, woke Ivy from her dreams. For a few moments Ivy wasn't sure where she was, could this be the room over looking lake Michigan where she and Will had spent their honeymoon? She had so loved that room several years later when she and Will bought this house, she had decorated this room with the same striped wallpaper, hardwood floors, large sleigh bed and massive dressers, any detail she could copy, from that room was copied. She hurried through the house closing windows, pausing at the last one to look at natures fireworks dance across the sky.
It seemed like it was nearing sunrise. In the kitchen Ivy reached for
her favorite mug, it felt warm, everything felt warm, she touched the other crockery and it was warm. "That just shouldn't be." she said to herself. This morning was much cooler, and a mug of hot coffee would taste so good. Ivy took her coffee into the living room, and watched the sun rise. The rain was refreshing and the air smelled of fresh earth, these were moments to savor.
Getting ready to plant, eager to plant, she assembled her tools, and went out into the yard, carefully marked the spots where she thought the new trees would do the best. It was raining lightly, more a thick mistiness, she looked up to see Jeff and Mike and an older man approaching, she leaned on her shovel, "Morning fellas, what a glorious day." " We have someone we want you to meet." Jeff said through a grin that reached from ear to ear. "My Grandson said you wanted to meet me, and he was really surprised when I told him we had met. Kids today, they think they invented everything." said the older man as he reached out took Ivy's hand and kissed it, "Mullford Biddle still at your service after all these years." "Ford" ivy said in a stunned whisper.