At the Apple Orchard
Daniel was eager to get to the Apple Orchard, he was comfortable at Michael’s and was feeling quite ill at ease and not quite sure why. By now, he decided, he had been around these women long enough and was in need of a stiff drink and a chew to spit.
They arrived late Sunday evening. The sun had already set. The air was warm and dry with a smell of hickory smoke and bacon. Stew was being prepared at a nearby campfire. There were families camping in the open field just off from the main house.
Harvest was in full swing and the boughs on the apple trees hung low, heavy with fruit.
Mingled with the hickory smoke and bacon that hung in the air, was the crisp smell of apples that had fallen to the ground releasing the pungent aroma of their fermenting sweetness into the warm late-summer air.
A man from the porch of the main house let out a loud whistle followed by,
As he sprang to his feet and hopped down to greet his friend. Walking to Dan he took his hand and embraced him with a warm hug the way brothers do.
“Glad you’re here Dan. I was a afraid you may have run into some trouble up north, I expected you a bit earlier.” Glancing at Sylvia and Anne.
“And just whom have you brought with you this fine evening?”
Removing his hat
“Ah yes Michael, these are some very good friends of mine.” Daniel began. “This is Mrs. Sylvia Breslyn.”
Michael takes Sylvia’s hand in both of his and winks at her.
“And this here is Miss Anne Hibbert.”
Michael, raises an eyebrow flashing Daniel a glance as he says, “Well Miss Hibbert, I am pleased to make your acquaintance”.
From behind Michael a woman’s voice calls to him “Michael,is that Dan and Joe Lavery?”
Michael draws his attention up to the porch and calls back, “Yes Christina, The’re here.”
Waving Dan up to the house.
“Dan, come up here, will you? And bring that husband of mine with you so I have something nice to look at while I fix us some dinner!”
Michael raises his eyebrows and pulling on his suspenders gleefully. “My wife Christina…she has a fine appetite indeed!”
Dan and Sylvia chuckle and Anne blushes, but smiles. All four walk up to the house. Upon arriving, Michael opens the door for his guests. He is the last to enter, lowering his suspenders as though becoming less formal.
Dan walks into the kitchen and is met by Christina. She is a shorter woman, and looks at least ten years younger than Michael. Her hair is swept up casually with strands falling around her shoulders. Her skin has a pleasant light olive color to it, which glows in the heat of the evening. She opens her arms to embrace him.
“Dan, welcome. You look well.” Noticing Anne and Sylvia. “Oh well, who have you brought with you?”
Daniel makes the introductions as he did with Michael.
“Wont you have a seat?” Christina offers, pointing to the table and chairs as they enter the kitchen.
As Daniel and Anne sit, Michael pulls five cup from the shelf above the sink. He fills them with something from a barrel in the corner of his kitchen and distributes the cups around the room to each person. Dan immediately takes the glass and sips from it, Anne takes a sip as well.
Sylvia remains standing. As usual she is only comfortable when she is busy and looks around the kitchen for something to do.
While Christina rolls dough for a pie, she looks up at Sylvia and asks intuitively, “Do you know how to make apple pie?”
Sylvia gives her a smile, asking, “Where do you keep your knives?”
Sizing her up, “Second drawer down”
Sylvia goes to the drawer, gets the knife, and immediately begins peeling apples for the pie. Christina continues rolling the dough.
Realizing that Sylvia has joined Christina, Anne suddenly feels awkward.
“How do you like the punch Anne?” Michael asks.
“Is that what this is?” Anne replies as she takes another sip.
“Yeah that’s what it is…and you can drink as much as you like my dear.” He teases, winking at Dan.
Realizing her husband is having a bit of fun at the poor girls expense Christina adds,
“My husband fancies himself for quite the master brewer, Anne. Trouble is he drinks so much of the stuff himself, that there’s seldom enough left for anyone else to give him an honest opinion on its quality.
In his own defense, “I do not drink that much!”
“Michael Studdeman, I am 38 years old, and in perfect health. It’s been four years since our last child during which time you have taken to drinking far more then your share. I happen to find that to be a strange coincidence don’t you? If it’s not the drink sir then what is the cause?”
Sylvia and Daniel are delighted by this display. Daniel points at Michael and bellows, as Sylvia wrinkles her nose and laughs heartily as she slices apples. Christina winks at Anne and gives her a steadying nod.
Although Michaels pride is somewhat hurt, there is simply not enough truth to what she has said to do any real damage, but he plays along anyhow.
“Well I suppose it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that my wife is a wicked shrew of a woman now would it?”
Rising to leave, he pulls up his suspenders. “Well I suppose that, that is all the humiliation I can endure for now. Daniel, would you care to join me outdoors?”
Dan rises as well. He follows Michael calling behind him to the kitchen, “I’ll see that he doesn’t drink too much tonight, Christina!”
“Aw, to hell with him Dan!” Christina calls back. The ladies laugh and continue with their work.