The Orchard
by Susan Wolfson

It’s midsummer now, and getting hotter. Often I go out walking in the orchard, and I tend to think a lot as I walk. It’s funny how life can sometimes play cruel jokes on us. I was hoping that this Beltane would bring me a woman with whom I had a lot in common— someone I could really love. It’s been said that you should be careful what you wish for because you might get it. That’s certainly true in my case!
This past Beltane eve I was alone and feeling pretty sorry for myself. It had been six months since my lady had walked out on me, and, as they say, “Once burned, twice shy”. My house is rather far out in the country, so it was easy to sequester myself in my old farmhouse with all its antiques. I wasn’t quite ready to expose myself to the slings and arrows of fickle Cupid again, but I sure did miss having a woman around the place.

That night I was feeling particularly tense, so, although it was well past midnight, I went for a walk in the orchard to get my head together. The blossoms had just fallen from the trees and the moon was bright. There was a peculiar smell in the air, and the ground was soft under my feet. Oddly, though, I sensed that I wasn’t alone. Then I heard the faint sound of singing coming through the trees. The melody was vaguely familiar, but I just couldn’t place it. Someone was with me in the orchard, but surprisingly it didn’t feel at all unnatural, even at that hour. She stepped from the shadows, a not very tall woman with a delicate build and whispy sandy hair. I think she was as surprised to see me as I was to see her. Her head tilted curiously to one side, as she tried to make out who this strange man was who was walking in the orchard so late at night. Strangely, she didn’t seem to be at all threatened by me.

“Hello,” she said as a half-smile passed her lips. Her eyes sparkled in the moonlight with an almost elfin quality.
“What’s a nice girl like you doing out so late?” I asked. “It’s too early in the year to be picking fruit.”

She shrugged. “Just out for a walk”.

That was something we had in common. I smiled back at her. “Me, too,” I said. “You want to walk together?”
She nodded, and we did. We talked a lot that night. It seems that her family was from the same country that mine hailed from– even the same little town. It was amazing how much we had in common. Her hand found mine, and they seemed to fit together perfectly. Our pace slowed down, and we leaned against a large apple tree. I reached around her shoulders and gently pulled her to me. She smelled so good. She nestled her head to my chest, and then she looked up and kissed me. It was a gentle kiss and sweet. She said, “I’m sorry. I’m not usually so forward.”

I laughed a little. “I would have kissed you if you hadn’t done it first,” I grinned. The next kiss was more intense, as were the stirrings I felt. It was so wonderful to feel her in my arms. My hands started to explore her body. She was slim, but curvaceous and soft.
All of a sudden she backed away from me. Time had slipped by unnoticed, and we both realized that light was beginning to glow in the east. My house was becoming visible in the dim light. We’d been walking for many hours.

“Would you like to see where I live?” I asked her. “I could sure use a drink of something, and something to eat. Would you allow me to offer you something?”

She nodded, and, holding hands, we walked over the little stone bridge which led to my back door.
The rough-hewn door creaked slightly as we went inside. The house was small-just three rooms. The only light was that of the dawn, but there was no need for any more.

My boots were wet with the dew, so I pulled them off and kicked them to the side with my foot. She laughed, and kicked hers off as well. I reached for her, drew her to me and we kissed a kiss that I’ll remember forever. The world ceased to exist for me, and all I knew was the intensity of the emotion that I felt for this woman who had been a stranger only a few hours before. I could feel stirring in her body and I responded in kind. My bedroom was just off to the side. As she pressed against me, I gathered her up, and carried her to the antique bed which had been in my family for generations.

We sat on the edge, and I started removing her clothes– the hook and eye fasteners causing me some difficulty. She helped me, and then started pulling my shirt tail from my jeans. We slowly removed each others’ clothes, tossing them to the floor, and then sat for a while looking at each other in the soft light. Her body seemed to glow with the dawn, its nipples growing hard in the chill air.

“Oooh, it’s cold in here,” she breathed, and together we dove under the quilt quickly pulling it up to our necks. Once in the warm nest of my bed, my hands found her beautiful breasts. My head descended beneath the covers and my lips kissed first one then the other. Her arms reached around me, her graceful hands caressing my back. My muscles moved in concert with her strokes. Our passion rose. My lips moved from breasts to her mouth, and I started kissing her deeply, my tongue exploring and moving in concert with hers. Our breathing became heavy and in rhythm with each other. Her hands grasped my tightening buttocks as I entered her, and I could feel with each thrust an intensity that filled my whole being-our passion was all that had ever existed in the world surpassing time itself.

We shared an explosive climax that was like the end of the universe, and then a total peace. We lay in each others arms and slept.
As the sun rose higher, the room became brighter, and my goddess awakened. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and slowly looked around. She looked at the house and at its furnishings, and a dismayed and shocked expression came to her face.

“Oh, no!!,” she blurted. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” She jumped from the bed and sought out and found her clothes. Hurriedly putting them on, she ran through the door out into the orchard. And all at once.... she was gone. I had some trouble finding my clothes. I ran after her but when I got outside, she was nowhere to be found. I tried to retrace the path we had taken the night before, but when I came to where I remembered the large apple tree, there was only a place that bore the remnants of a rotted stump.

Total confusion filled me for a number of days, until I found an old hand-written book and a tintype of someone who looked just like woman I had met in the orchard. They were stuck in the back of a drawer in a bureau in the attic. The book was that of someone who dabbled in magik. She had been working with time travel. The story was an unusual one telling of a tryst that took place one night near her apple orchard– a one night liaison that had resulted in the conception and birth of a son. I looked at the name on the flyleaf of the book– it was that of my great-grandmother. No wonder the song she had sung that night in the orchard was familiar to me. It was a family song that I faintly remembered hearing when I was little. And now I understood her shock when she awakened, looked around at the house and furniture and realized that she had spent the night in incestuous passion! This was nothing that we had planned, so I don’t see how it could be considered a sin. The true sin would be to allow her to think I’d forgotten her. Each night I go out into the orchard trying to find that doorway back to her. Hopefully, it will appear. So if one day you find my house empty, you’ll know that I’ve found my way to join the woman I love back in her time and help her raise our son. I know he’ll turn out just fine because I remember him as an old man. After all he was my grandfather.

— Written March 2001 —