Farmer Hank woke to the sound of Croak, the rooster, welcoming the vibrant dawn. Intense colors streaked the sky.
“I’m about fed up with that miserable excuse for an alarm clock.” His wife’s drowsy groan made him grin as he hopped out of bed and hiked up his drawers.
Farmer Hank loved everything about life and early mornings were the best part of his day. He settled his floppy straw hat on his head and headed out to the barn, whistling a cheerful tune. The birds twittered and tweeted their greetings. Bucky Beagle cavorted at his heels, baying and growling playfully. He inhaled deeply of the fresh country air to clear the last sleepy cobwebs from his head.
The barn was warm and smelled of rich odors. Feed, animals… even the manure was a part of the comforting mixture. Hank settled down on a milking stool beside Greta and rested his forehead against her soft flank as he milked. The expectant barn cats clustered nearby. Meadow Muffin stretched up to her full height, purred persuasively, and gently slapped his cheek with her silky paw.
“Ok, little lady, step back now.” He sent several squirts of milk toward the waiting cats and chuckled at their antics and frothy white faces. After stripping the last few drops from Greta, Hank gave her a last pat and let her wander out to the clover-filled pasture.
The cats danced around his feet and screeched at Hank until he spilled some sweet milk into their bowls. He sat and watched them drink their fill, and then vigorously clean their damp whiskers. He picked up Muffin and cuddled her, feeling her purr and running his fingers through her soft fur. She smelled both fresh and earthy… like grass and dirt. Muffin squirmed restlessly, so Hank put her down and headed out to finish his chores.
Carrying a basket of eggs and a handful of wildflowers, he returned to the welcoming farmhouse.
The smell of home-cured bacon and fried eggs teased Hank’s nose and his stomach cramped in hunger. He stepped onto the porch, slipped out of his coveralls and barn boots, and stopped to again absorb the beauty of the morning. His heart raced and his chest ached.
“Henry... you gonna eat or what?” Velma’s voice startled him from his thoughts. Henry turned and gazed at her. At sixty-two, she seemed to have become more beautiful through the years. The lines and wrinkles made her look softer and wiser instead of aged. Humor, intelligence, and love lit her deep brown eyes and made them glow. A thick braid of silky silver hair wrapped around her head like a crown, yet she wore a simple pair of faded jeans and a t-shirt. Her feet were bare and dirty, but she always smelled of flowers and soap. Velma cocked her head at Hank’s intense expression and her chocolate eyes moistened as he wrapped his arms around her. They clung to one another.
Finally, she pulled back with a sniffle and gave his arm a playful whack… ”Your favorite breakfast is getting cold, Mister. Get in there and eat before I dump it in the slop bucket.” They clasped hands and ambled into the sprawling kitchen. Hank’s food was indeed cold, yet never had it tasted so good to him.
“What took so long this morning? I nearly came out to get ya.” Velma didn’t look at him as she washed the few dishes she had dirtied making breakfast.
“I’m sorry to have worried you, I never thought...” He paused, thinking about his morning. “I was so caught up in absorbing every smell, every sensation, every memory.” A dish crashed to the floor. Robert was at Velma’s side in seconds. They held each other and cried.
Later they sat together on the front porch swing, sipping iced lemonade and talking. Their fingers were as entwined as their hearts. “Tomorrow’s surgery is dangerous. So, just in case, everything you would need is on my desk in a folder.”
Velma again blinked back tears.
“Doc said it could be months before I’m back at what I love here, but I’ve arranged for the animals to be cared for, however long it takes. Tomorrow and the following days will be hard, but today… let’s just be grateful for today and enjoy every minute of it.”
Velma laid her head on Henry’s muscled shoulder and breathed in his masculine scent. “There is one thing we still need to do today. Lets pray.”
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