THIS IS A WORK OF ORIGINAL FICTION.
It will be serialized in sections over the next few days and its ending will traditionally be marked with, ‘The End.’
Jordan turned around, wondering why Scott was lagging behind her. They’d been together for six months and had just gotten back from their first trip together. “Are you bored or something?” she teased. They were hiking on a paved trail at a local park which was decidedly less adventurous, but Scott wasn’t dragging his feet with tedium or wistful thinking about the majesty they’d seen on vacation. He was collecting Queen Anne’s Lace and wild daisies from the edge of the worn pavement. “What are you doing?” she giggled as he stood with the bunch of flowers.
“I know this isn’t exactly the trail on the Brink of the Lower Falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and maybe there’s no view of nature’s grandeur and power here, but…I’m allowed to pick a bouquet for my girl here.” Jordan’s eyes teared up as she accepted his offering. Scott smiled at her warily. “Wasn’t going for ‘crying’ here,” he nervously murmured.
Jordan sniffed and smiled back at him, collecting her thoughts. Scott loved the parts of her that had drawn attention in the past, but he also never questioned and openly appreciated her femininity. She’d never been given flowers before. Scott did a lot of little things like that; romantic things that she herself never considered but always adored when he did them. “I love you.”
“Yeah. That’s more like it,” he snickered. “I love you too. You…wanna move in with me?”
“Really?!” she nearly shouted. They began trekking further up an easy incline.
“Spent a week with you at the cabin, sleeping in my arms and…y’know…I don’t wanna give that up now. I get it if you don’t want to, but I just…”
“I totally want to. Of course I want to.” She reached for his hand after shifting her handful of wildflowers. He squeezed her fingers in his. “I love your hands,” she whispered.
“I love yours too.” She shook her head at him, disbelieving his words, still leery and a little ashamed of her hands. “We should hold hands on the trails we hike from now on. Wherever we are.” He moved the pad of his thumb over her knuckles. “I love holding your hand.” She bumped his hip with hers and momentarily rested her head on his shoulder. He kissed her forehead as they reached the end of the trail.
Scott stood at the kitchen counter, slicing peaches to bake with honey, to top vanilla ice cream for dessert. Jordan wearily shuffled in the front door and slunk to the sofa, dropping herself heavily onto it. She was still semi-covered in sawdust and left a trail behind her with each step she took. “I’ll sweep after dinner. I promise,” she sighed. Scott snickered at her.
“Tough day at the office, honey?” he teased. “I’ll sweep later. You rest. Except for dinner, I sat at my desk on my ass all day. You actually worked hard.”
“You spoil me.”
“I know it. I read all those quasi-feminist sociology articles on social media. Guys that do housework get laid more often…”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. You’re such a card. You should be dealt with.”
“Ooo…deal with me later. Please?”
“You love me.”
“I really do. What are you making?”
“Buffalo chicken mac and cheese.”
“Hot dog! That’s my favorite thing you make!”
“Just like our first date. You know what today is?”
“Been a year since our first date today.”
“Aw, shit. You did something romantic and sweet and I did zilch! Girlfriend Fail. You remembered that?”
“Had a little help. Cleaned out the receipt folder in the file cabinet Sunday while you were at the shop with your dad and came across the work order for the kitchen. I just added a day.”
“You’re the sweetest thing.”
“Thought I was terrible…”
“You’re that too.”
“Guess what I have planned after dessert.”
“You did more than just make dinner?!”
“I feel like a louse that I did nothing but leave wood pulp all over the floor…”
“Don’t. This is repaying a debt.”
“Know what? I’ll just show you after we eat.”
Jordan and Scott loaded the dishwasher in tandem after peaches and ice cream, and he insisted she take a therapeutic hot shower while he swept up the dust and bits she’d tracked in. She exited the master bedroom in fresh cotton pajamas and nestled into the corner of the sofa. “Be right back,” he chimed, winking at her.
“Oh boy!” she giggled.
He returned with thick hand moisturizer and another, lighter lotion. “Let’s see those hands.” He took her right hand in both of his and studied it, examining the small cracks and splits her work inflicted on her. She wore gloves to stain, but claimed she couldn’t properly feel the grains of the wood when she carved and sanded if she wore them. It made her skin excessively dry and tight and caused more than her fair share of minor cuts and abrasions.
“Oh, they’re awful,” she mourned, her face pinking up a bit with chagrin. “They’re the worst part of me…”
“What?! They’re the best part of you,” he corrected her. “My favorite physical part of you, anyway. Well…right after your face. Your hands are amazing. They could just use a little regular TLC.” He carefully massaged the heavy salve into her skin until it had completely absorbed; first her right hand, then her left, paying concentrated attention to her knuckles and wrists, before finishing by rubbing lotion onto his own hands, then hers. He worked the more sheer cream into each bend and crevice of her hands and then entwined their fingers, pulling her into a seductive kiss.
“That’s nice,” she breathed, her eyes still closed, feeling loved…perhaps even honored and cherished.
“I’ll take care of your hands every day if you’d like me to.”
“Yeah? You’re on. But then that’s more lopsided. You’re making dinner…you’re fixing my parched, tired hands…I mean…what can I do for you? Don’t be nasty,” she playfully warned.
“No nastiness. You can do something for me, though. Since you made the offer.”
“Be my wife.”
“What?!” she squealed with astonishment.
“I was going for ‘yes.’ Or maybe even ‘okay, I guess.’ Honestly, ‘what’ in that tone of voice is a tad discouraging…”
“I’m just…floored. I mean…of course, ‘yes.’ Yes!”
“Hell yes! I have one more step for your left hand then.” He pulled his grandmother’s heirloom engagement ring from his pocket and slid it down her finger. It fit like it was custom made.