The paint on the side of the barn up on the hill was chipping badly and I leaned against it to escape as the rain came down. I had just run up the hill, up from the fields and my hair was soaked now and I watched the rain come down hard across the valley. These were big summer drops. The sky went on far and was covered with grey until a splash of blue on the horizon. I wiped the water from my face with my shirtsleeve, protected now underneath the barn overhang. I watched the stream past beyond the fields pick up and run faster with the rain. I caught my breath and heard only the rain hitting the roof and in the fields. It had been four months since my father’s death, six since my mother’s.
Abby came running out of the house getting wet to join me. She wore cut-offs showing long tanned legs and a gauzy shirt that clung to her skin in the rain. Her hair was pinned up and the loose parts were wet to her face. She came next to me, leaned against the barn wall too, and tried to blow the hair off her face, which did not work and looked at me and let out a quiet smile.
“Nice stems,” I said.
“This is where they met,” I said. “My parents.”
“I know,” she said. “Wasn’t it a pig farm?”
“Yes. But no more pigs now.”
“I hadn’t seen any.” She moved closer, leaned her head against my shoulder.
“Vegetables… Did you see some of those?”
“Yeah. I saw some of those.”
“You see that stream just beyond the trees,” I pointed. “My parents said they went skinny dipping there and often.”
“I was wondering when you were going to ask me,” she said.
Her sandals off, she charged down the muddy hill, her bare feet splashing through puddles toward the stream.
“Wait!” I yelled out, “It’s dangerous… It’s….” Dammit. I ran after her. She tossed off her shirt and I followed suit. I kicked my shoes off under a tree and watched her jump in, feet first, her willowy arms swinging overhead drawing her shoulder blades together and then apart, her skin already wet from rain. She disappeared under the water, her head popping up, her shoulders, bare, and just high enough to reveal her collarbones above the surface. She looked up to me and I stared for a moment and then jumped in after her. I swam toward her and the current took us both downstream. I caught up and brought her body to mine, her legs wrapped around me. The water was warm and comfortable and moving quickly and we kissed and my hand held her tight on the small of her back and she dropped her head back to feel the rain and down stream we went locked together, the inside of her thighs resting on my hip bones.
We went like this and entire summers of my life had not lasted as long as this one dive.
After, in the house, drying off, Abby put on a Spanish guitar record and we played a game of chess, both wrapped in towels.
“This was my pops’ board,” I said.
“Of course it was,” she said.
We sat staring at the board and at each other.
“When was the last time you were here?” she asked.
“Must’ve been fifteen or so years back. Our parents took my sister and me on a road trip through some of their old spots.”
My eyes followed the exposed beams on the ceiling to the window. You could feel the moisture come in from outside, cooling the earth, a much needed soaking my mother used to say. The farmhouse had been around for quite some time but had switched hands periodically. The owners told me they found what they kept calling “archives” in the cellar of the house. There were old photos and letters dating back to the late 1800s. They had not had the place too long, only a decade or so, but were generous to share it with us when we arrived with our story. They asked us questions. I showed them pictures of the pig farm back in the sixties and they asked for copies. I told them I would send them on over after we got back. I told them when it was a pig farm, they used to get young people up as interns to help get some energy into the place, energy they did not have to pay too much. They let them eat the food, have a bed, and enjoy the big skies.
The family now says they keep it rather local, “market farm” they kept calling it, though they do sell the extra eggs to a restaurant upstate. He drives them up himself, he told me, every Sunday.
They seemed to like having visitors though, invited us to stay as long as we would like. They were downstairs now, leaving us some privacy.
“We should go down soon and help with dinner,” Abby said.
“Did you see the table down there? He told me he made it out of an old barn door, cleaned it off, fixed it up, and put it in the dining room. We should do something like that.”
“We will,” she said taking my rook.
“My parents always told this story about how they needed to move one of the bigger pigs from one pen to another and it became my pops’ job. But this pig was ornery, they said, weighed more than a ton, and wouldn’t budge without a fight. My dad wrestled him around the pen all day until finally he was able to push the pig through the gate and shut it behind.”
“Tough guy, your dad.”
“Just wait, that night, my mom wakes up to my pops kicking her out of bed. She tries to wake him. Doesn’t work. He kicks her so hard she falls straight out of bed. My pops wakes up to my mom hitting the floor. ‘What are you doing?’ she says and he should have just apologized there. But no, he tries to explain himself. ‘I thought you were the pig,’ he says.”
Abby laughed, took my knight. “Mate in two,” she said, took off the towel from around her shoulders, put a t-shirt back on, and walked over to the mirror to put her earrings in.
“We should head down,” she said.
I came behind her and hold her hipbones and we made eye contact in the mirror. She turned her head and kissed my neck.
“We gotta figure out what door to use for our table,” she said and left the room and I had the thought that we had seen a lot of doors open together. I walked over to the window and watched the rain fall once more. It came down, feeding the earth, cleansing away the rest into the stream, flowing down and out to who-knows-where. And there I was, new owners, old creaky floor, new table made out of the door my pops once opened from one pen to another, piling now my food and my story on top of theirs.
It is just those same beams kept a roof over their heads, and now, it kept a roof over Abby’s.