Walk with Me
by Lynn Watson
Rachel found Mummo on the sunny side of the log house sitting in a washtub of cow manure. The heat it generated soothed Mummo’s arthritic hips.
“Is that my nappula? Mummo’s cataract clouded eyes swiveled toward Rachel. She reached out her hand, which Rachel took gently, so as not to hurt the twisted, swollen joints.
Rachel sat on the wooden bench. “Eino came by.” The breeze blew her words up into the pink twigs at the top of the birch trees.
Rachel’s grandmother rubbed the stray hairs on her chin, then slapped the burlap she was seated on. “That boy from the farm next door? Paska! Bad kalsarikännit! ‘Drunk -in -your -underwear -at -home’ time is supposed to be for relaxing. They relax too much! That Eino should be the one dead, not all my good grandsons!”
As Rachel watched the glinting creek that ran from the spring house, she thought how time never stopped for anyone. A mourning dove cooed from the clothesline between limp, wetly hung shirts. “Yes. Aiti and Isa have had it hard after losing my brothers.”
Mummo settled lower into the muck. “Men. Wars. Endless.” She spat near Rachel’s foot.
“He came with a blanket over his arm, to walk with me in the orchard.”
Mummo’s mouth caved deeper over her gums. She hissed, “Not with you, my little bunny.”
Rachel sighed, leaned back against the wall, and closed her eyes. The sun through her lids gave her review of the walk with Eino a rosy glow. That silent stroll, a polite distance apart, under the petaled perfume of the snowy apple blossoms. That confidence in his stride, his calloused hand on her elbow as she leaned against his muscled shoulder to cross the narrow bridge. Beneath the sheltering orchard branches, Eino had hung his blanket over a limb, then reached for her hands. Rachel hid them behind her apron. The scented air sang with the song of a nesting house wren. Eino’s eyes had looked down into her own, with a mix of hope and war haunted sadness. He had asked, “Will you marry me?
Rachel had laughed, “No!”
“You were such a little girl when I left,” Eino had explained. “Now you’re all grown up. Why isn’t a good housekeeper with your pretty figure, married?
Rachel had dimpled and said, “I’m only twelve.”
Eino ran his family’s farm now, but reliably stopped by, despite the hostile glares of Rachel’s mummo who seethed in pain and aggrieved bitterness toward the war survivor. Over the years Eino helped Rachel’s parents plant, hay, and haul wood. He even took them all to church and endured a certain younger man who buzzed around Rachel like a bee on honey.
Mummo’s funeral was a month gone, when Rachel walked out to meet Eino one evening. The air was sweet with the ripeness of apples. No words were shared during their solemn walk to the harvest fields. Until Rachel spoke. “Yes.”