|Image from Donna McNicol (here)|
"So, you grew up here?" Montgomery glanced at her guide, who'd asked a logical question, but her gaze quickly returned to the big, old Oak tree they were heading toward.
"Sort of," she responded. The tree was still there and the gentle rolling land still rolled, but commerce had developed the area so that it no longer felt familiar. The little county road that used to take her home had been upgraded to a major state road. Her old home hadn't been on this property anyway - now a sizable vineyard - but the whole countryside was where she roamed with friends and boyfriends in her youth. That was the whole reason for this visit so many years later.
Tim was the employee of Orchard 12 Winery who'd been tasked with providing a special, extended tour through the grounds outside the winery itself. Montgomery realized he was waiting for more of an explanation and added, "My home and my friend's home sort of converged here."
"Ah." As they drew near the central tree she was amazed at how green and full it looked, and marveled that it wasn't cut down for more vineyard space. Tim explained, "This tree is 100 years old, and a recognizable landmark in the area. I'm sure you know that, from growing up here?" She just smiled in response, as their steps slowed. "Instead of cutting it down, we made this point the hub." The pair stopped underneath the broad branches and Tim gestured down pathways in each direction, arranged like spokes on a wheel. "The center of our various vineyards and orchards."
He pointed down the pathways and named fruits in each direction. Montgomery listened, but as they walked her eyes were focused on the tree trunk, searching for scars. His speech ended with, "When we're back at the center our Tasting Room guides can help..." but the words stopped abruptly and she turned to see him frowning at his phone. A silent summons. "I'm sorry. I'm needed back at the center." He looked around uncertainly and offered, "I can let you walk on your own, just promise you won't leave the main paths I've pointed out."
"Thanks. I appreciate it." His sudden departure saved her the awkwardness of having to ask for solitude. She started down one path as he returned the way they'd come. When she saw he wasn't looking back, she hurried back to her Oak.
Pulling a pocket-knife from her jacket, she peered around lest anyone come to replace Tim. Seeing no one, she went to work scraching out the initials that had stood the test of time.
"R.B. + M.M." was still legible inside the heart Rick had carved. Back when they were in high school, Montgomery'd had the certainty of youth to add "4 eva" under the heart.
"Bastard. Liar. Psycho." The divorce proceedings were finally final, and this - the start of their 20 year relationship - was where Montgomery chose to begin erasing that history.
After their initials and "4eva" were mere scratches, she breathed a sigh of relief and headed back inside. Time for some of that wine!
It's FICTION FRIDAY!
Every Friday, a new flash fiction story, inspired by reader comments. Feel free to leave a prompt for future use in the comments below. I hope you liked that story, based on the prompt "tree" given during the A to Z Challenge by Archana (of Spice of Life!) on my "R" post (here).
If you choose to join in for Fiction Fridays, post a link to your story below in the comments. Next week's prompt is: A cat. If you join me next week, be sure to come back and share a link to your story!