Caleb hoisted the heavy bag of flour over his shoulder and slowly picked his way up the cellar stairs; the stairs creaked beneath his weight as he slowly made his way to the open door. As he made his way back towards the kitchen he smiled as he heard his mother ordering his sisters around. His mother was trying to prepare a grand feast for her childhood friend and was frantically rushing around the house to prepare rooms and food for their guests.
“Mother, slow down before you wear yourself out.” chuckled Caleb setting the bag of flour down on top of the kitchen table, “She is your best friend from childhood, and I wager she is not going to expect the fancy silverware to be set out.”
“Oh, hush Caleb!” scolded Marion though a wide smile formed on her face, “Luisa and I may be best friends; however, we have always been a little competitive when it comes to our cooking.”
“A little competitive?” guffawed Caleb quickly moving from his mother’s swatting hand
The kitchen was filled with baked goods and the delicious smell of roasted meat wafted around the kitchen; his sister Martha hid a smile as she tended to a pot on the stove, laughing as her brother held his hands up in defeat.
“You get out of here and tend to those bushes out front!” shooed Marion playfully pushing her son back out the door
This was the first time Luisa has visited in a few years, he couldn’t help but wonder if Allison would join her mother. When they were children, Allison and Caleb would compete in all kinds of games; ‘Will she be the same care-free Allison or will she be more interested in finding a suitor?’ pondered Caleb as he trimmed the bushes around the front door
The passed slowly as Caleb went about his chores; he wiped the sweat from his face, grunting as he stacked the square bales of hay higher and higher. His thoughts were so focused on Allison that he didn’t hear his sister Sarah come up behind him.
“Mama said that Allison is coming as well as the rest of Luisa’s children…” grinned Sarah cheekily
“So, Allison is seventeen now, and you’re twenty-two…”
“Look Sarah, either make your point or help me with these bales...” growled Caleb glaring at her, while he blushed furiously
“Fine…are you finally going to ask her to marry you? Allison has been in love you since childhood, you know.” teased Sarah laughing
Caleb tossed another bale up and turned to face his sister, he glared at her, annoyed that Sarah knew exactly what he was thinking or rather…who he was thinking about.
“Another word about Allison and I will gladly inform Frank that you are dying to become his wife.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” gasped Sarah flabbergasted; her eyes grew wide as her cheeks grew pink
“Try me!” winked Caleb playfully
Caleb laughed as Sarah ran towards the house; he went back to work making sure that the property would look presentable for their visitors. He knew that his mother worried about the work-load of the farm, especially after their father left them a few years ago. His brother was still too little to do too much around the farm, so the brunt of the work fell to him. Caleb didn’t mind the work however, he found it rewarding and relaxing; yet a part of him wondered what it would be like when the time came for him to find a wife. His mother would insist he buy his own property; however, he knew he could never leave this farm.
The next morning…
Caleb had just finished sliding into his jacket when he heard his mother urgently calling his name; he smiled as he made his way down the stairs. His mother rushed up to him and grabbed onto his arm.
“Caleb, the blasted cow escaped the pen this morning and refuses to be caught!” gasped Marion pulling her son with her outside, “You have to put that animal into the pasture before she eats all of my flowers!”
Dutifully, Caleb went outside to put the stubborn cow into the pasture; just as he finally got the cow to move in the right direction, Caleb noticed a buggy making its way towards the homestead. A few minutes later, he closed the gate and walked back to the house just as the buggy stopped a few feet from the door.
Marion and his sisters joined him on the front stoop as he helped the women out of the black buggy. Caleb’s eyes grew slightly wider when he realized the beautiful brunette was Allison. She no longer wore her hair in pigtails, it was now pulled up in an elegant up-do that seemed to make her doe-like eyes even wider; Caleb noticed that Allison blushed under his gaze.
“Louise, it is so wonderful to see you!” smiled Marion warmly hugging her friend
Louise returned the sentiment and re-introduced her three daughters, proudly smiling at each of her children: “Fred was unable to move his meetings and needed Jacob to help him.” explained Louise
“Well, when you return home, let him know that we missed seeing him.” replied Marion kindly, “Louise you remember my daughters Sarah, Martha and Anna; my sons Caleb and William.”
“It’s nice to see you again Ma’am, ladies.” greeted Caleb politely, though his gaze didn’t leave Allison’s the entire time
“Caleb, it’s good to see you again.” smiled Allison demurely, however, her eyes twinkled with mischief
“Caleb will you bring in their luggage and set it in their rooms?” asked Marion leading her friend into their house
“Of course.” smiled Caleb
Caleb pulled on the straps that held their luggage to the buggy, before he could begin to lift the heavy trunks down, he noticed Allison approach him; his hands suddenly felt clammy. Wiping his hands quickly on his pants, he began to lift the first trunk down. Allison blushed again as she saw the muscles in Caleb’s arms straining under the weight of her trunk.
“I’m sorry it’s so heavy Caleb…” said Allison softly, “I did put in a few books.”
“How many books did you put in here?” winked Caleb enjoying the way her lips tilted up into a smile at his teasing
“Only ten.” giggled Allison inching closer to the handsome farmer, “Father promised me that if I could read ten books in our three-week visit, he would finally teach me how to fence.”
“Well then, I wish you luck in your endeavors.” smiled Caleb lifting the trunk off the ground
Allison watched him carry the trunk into the house, she was glad to have a few moments to herself before he came back to retrieve the second trunk. Allison had been looking forward to coming back; she had missed Caleb especially; butterflies flew wildly in her stomach when she saw him. No longer was he the gangly, scrawny little boy from her youth; he was tall, muscular and very handsome with his tanned skin and bright green eyes, his kind smile; his dimples showing each time he smiled. Caleb was just as kind now as he was as a child; Allison had never admitted to anyone that she had fallen in love with him. ‘I wonder if he still sees me as a just a friend?’ mused Allison pouting slightly, ‘I hope that perhaps…he might feel the same way about me as I feel about him.’
“What’s that pout for darlin’?” asked Caleb as he walked towards the second trunk, “Everything alright?”
“Yes, yes…everything is just fine!” stuttered Allison flustered to have been caught pouting, “Will you need help putting the horse and buggy away?”
“No, I won’t need help.” chuckled Caleb adding quickly, “I would enjoy some company though.”
“I will wait here for you then.” replied Allison shyly
Grinning, Caleb carried the second trunk inside the house as quickly as possible, he was eager to spend more time alone with Allison. As promised, she was waiting for him by the horse, his heart began to pound faster and faster when she looked up at him with her beautiful wide hazel eyes, her pink lips turned up in a sweet smile. Then realization hit him: ‘I love her…I love Allison!’ thought Caleb not realizing that he was still on the stoop staring at her
“Caleb?” questioned Allison curiously, “Is everything okay?”
He shook his head slightly and grinned; he forced his feet to move forwards. He assured her that he was fine, just lost in thought. With one hand on the horse’s reins, he offered Allison the use of his other arm. Allison eagerly accepted his arm, blushing when she felt just how strong he had become over the years.
‘I’ve never been in love before now.’ thought Caleb casting a glance at the woman beside him, ‘I always thought that Martha, Anna and Sarah were silly describing true love as having a pounding heart, clammy hands, thoughts consumed with the person of their affection…but now that Allison is here, holding onto my arm…my heart feels like it’s going to burst open; I can’t imagine a life without her.’
They finally made it to the barn, Allison watched Caleb unhook the horse from the heavy buggy and lead the animal into the barn; she followed behind. She saw how careful and kind he was to the tired animal.
They passed this time in comfortable silence, each lost in thoughts about the other. Each desperate to declare their love, however, they were both nervous about doing so. What if the other did not feel the same way?
Caleb got the horse settled in the stall and watched the animal happily munch on the pile of hay. He felt Allison’s arm brush against his, his heart began to race and he knew that he could no longer stay silent. He turned towards her:
They laughed and took a self-conscious step back; Caleb took a risk and stepped back towards her and gently took her hands in his.
“Allison, I don’t know any fancy words to say what I want to say to you…” began Caleb in a soft voice, “I’m just going to come right out and say it and I really hope that you feel the same way…Allison, I love you!”
Allison felt her heart beating wildly against her chest when he claimed her hands in his, however when he declared his love for her, she was sure her heart would burst free from her chest. She smiled up at him and took anther step closer.
“I was really hoping you would say that.” smiled Allison sweetly, “I love you Caleb Henderson.”
Caleb softly caressed her cheek and rested his forehead against hers; this moment seemed to pass slowly; they simply enjoyed this moment of new found love. Allison tilted her head up slightly; Caleb couldn’t help but grin as he gently pressed his lips against hers. Their first kiss was most sweet and very wonderful indeed. When they pulled back, both were slightly breathless from the excitement of discovering their love.
Hand in hand, they took their time walking back to the house; Caleb caught their sisters giggling at the window at the sight of them.
“I believe we’ve been caught…” whispered Caleb nodding towards the window
“Oh dear, I believe you are right.” sighed Allison looking at Caleb, “Are you ready to be teased about choosing a wedding date?”
“Perhaps we should tell them we mean to marry by the end of summer…” winked Caleb enjoying her blush
“Perhaps we should marry by the end of summer.”
Caleb stopped and stared at her, he knew now that he would love to marry her, he just didn’t think that she would want to marry so soon. He saw her eyes twinkle with merriment, her grip on his arm tightened.
“You really want that?” asked Caleb hoping that she would say yes, “I live in the same house as my family; I could build us a house to call our own…however, I want to remain close by to help out with the farm, I cannot leave my mother to run the farm by herself.”
“I really do want to be your wife!” smiled Allison widely, “I love your mother and siblings…I would never ask you to abandon your mother to have our own property. I would be very happy to live close to her...You could build the house down by the river, perhaps.”
“That would be wonderful, dear Allison…I should ask you officially, shouldn’t I?” replied Caleb placing a kiss on her cheek
Caleb bent down on one knee, keeping her hand in his; he heard their sisters squealing for their mothers to come and watch. Allison and Caleb laughed joyfully at their excitement.
“Dear sweet Allison, my childhood friend…I promise to do all I can to make sure you are well cared for and that you are happy. I love you and I will always love you even as we grow grey and wrinkled.” declared Caleb softly gazing up at her smiling face, “Will you do me the honours of becoming my wife?”
“Yes, Caleb, yes!” laughed Allison leaning down to kiss him
Caleb gathered her in his arms and swirled her around before placing her carefully back on the ground, keep her in his arms. Their families came running out of the house and surrounded them, expressing their good wishes and love.
Three months later…at the end of summer…
Caleb was grateful that the house, he had been building all summer with the help of neighbours and friends, was finally finished and with the help of Allison it was furnished last week. He straightened his tie once more as he both anxiously and eagerly waited for the priest to give the signal to stand at the front.
He looked at the back doors hoping to catch a glimpse of Allison; William poked his arm playfully, Caleb looked down at his 7-year-old brother and smiled.
“You know Caleb, she’s not going to come any faster the more you look…” chortled William swinging his feet
“You just wait until it is your turn.” teased Caleb gently
A few more minutes passed before the priest finally nodded at him; Caleb stood and took his place in front of the priest. He looked down the aisle and when he was finally able to catch a glimpse of his bride, who was standing behind her sisters, he felt as though his heart would burst from pure happiness. ‘Allison is indeed beautiful; however, she is more than just beauty…she is kindness and intelligence, competitive and charm.’ thought Caleb smiling widely, ‘I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with Allison and discover so much more about her.”
Allison took Caleb’s hand the moment her father walked her to the end of aisle; she loved the way that Caleb was looking at her. She saw the love in his eyes and knew that he saw her love for him in her own eyes. The priest began the ceremony; however, the couple barely heard a word that was spoken.
“Will you take Allison Gibson as your wife?” asked the Priest nodding at Caleb
“I absolutely do!”
“Will you take Caleb Henderson as your husband?”
“I absolutely do!” smiled Allison
“You may now kiss the bride.”
Caleb placed a hand gently on her cheek and pressed a loving kiss on her lips; he would have deepened the kiss, however the excited gazes of their friends and family reminded him that they were not alone.
“With both agreeing to the marriage, I now present Mr. and Mrs. Henderson.” announced the Priest happily
Their friends and family raised such joyous cheer as the newly-wed couple walked arm in arm down the aisle. It was clear to anyone that the couple had eyes for only each other and would for the rest of their lives.
Later that evening, Caleb and Allison escaped the reception and made their way quickly to the apple orchid. Laughing, they ran until they made it to the centre of the orchid; they collapsed underneath one of the trees, both breathing heavily.
“My dear, at the risk of sounding silly, do you perhaps recognize this tree we are underneath?” grinned Caleb leaning back against the tree
“I’m sorry Caleb, I do not…” giggled Allison, “Is there something about this tree that I should recognize?”
“Look at the trunk just above my head.” said Caleb eagerly holding the lantern higher
Allison squinted and did as he asked; her eyes widened with surprise! There in the trunk were carved: ‘A. G & C.H’
“Our initials! We carved these before my family and I moved…” gasped Allison her fingers traced the letters, “If only we knew then, what we had just discovered now.”
“I think, in our own way, we did know.” replied Caleb kissing the back of her hand
Allison leaned against her new husband, enjoying the feeling of his arms around; they looked up at the stars, both lost in thought.
After a few moments had passed, they thought they had better rejoin the party before their guests came looking for them. Hand in hand they slowly walked back to the party, the silence between them comfortable.
“I love you Mrs. Allison Henderson!” whispered Caleb his lips brushing her cheek
“I love you too Mr. Caleb Henderson!” replied Allison softly
They paused for a brief moment and shared the sweetest of kisses underneath the moonlight. This was truly the beginning of forever.