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For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 8 July 2007 - 11:50pm.

Chapter 7

The next morning Ron awoke to the smell of something wonderful, something from his childhood that brought back special memories of his father and the times they had enjoyed together at this very cabin. He looked at the window and saw that the sun was up. The clock he had brought with him said only seven A.M. He had the urge to groan and again close his eyes, but the smell was a powerful stimulant and he rose and stepped toward the door. The moment Ron set eyes on Denise, standing there in the kitchen with a small streak of flour on her cheek, he recalled the night before and his heart leapt for the joy that it caused in him. She was dressed in a long nightshirt that he had not seen the evening before—probably Hunters’. Maybe he was just biased or maybe he had just been deprived of a woman too long, but plain as it was, it was quite possibly the sexiest thing he had ever laid eyes on. “Well, my nose tells me you can make a mean batch of pancakes and if you look as good in a bathrobe as you do in that nightshirt, I’m going to have to marry you.”

Denise dropped the pancake turner on the counter and instinctively ran to him, remembering how gallant he had been the night before. Throwing her arms about his neck she whispered, “I love you. I love you so much.” There was no doubting that she meant it with every particle of her being—he could hear it in her voice and it resounded in his very soul. It was to him as a great symphony that left one breathless with the majesty and grandeur of it all. He was indeed the most fortunate man on earth. They just stood there holding one another in silence for several minutes until he noticed the smoke coming from the stove and began to laugh.

“Oh, no! No! R-o-o-o-n….”, she whimpered pathetically. All he could think was how cute she looked and how sexy she was. The wait would be difficult, he knew.

Breakfast was over and the dishes done. He had been so reluctant to leave her that he stood beside her and dried the dishes. She had given him a surprised look and a definite smirk.

“What was that look for?” he asked.

“”I was just wondering how long after we are married that this will last.” She waited for an answer with an amused expression. It did not come, but the look of embarrassment from Ron was worth it and she had slapped his arm playfully with the towel and turned back to the task at hand.

Afterward he told her, “I want to show you something very special. Do you mind a short hike?”

“You forget who you are talking to. I’m an experienced trail-blazer, Mister.”

“It won’t be that difficult, but it will be worth the effort, I promise you.”
She dressed quickly and they set out. The trek through the forest was not terribly complicated, as he had promised, but it was also not a casual walk in the park. It was decidedly uphill most of the way, some of it very steeply uphill. The opportunity to see the woods again and get some truly fresh, clean air was invigorating to them both and there was not the slightest inclination toward complaint about the effort required to get to where they were going. Denise asked repeatedly what it was that Ron wanted to show her and repeatedly he said, ‘you will see.’ She had to admit that he was steadfast in his intentions, if not stubborn. That could be a good trait, when channeled properly, she knew. She suspected that whatever their destination, it would indeed be worth the hike, as he had assured her.

As they reached approximately the two and one half mile point in their hike, they scaled a steep rock and emerging from the trees, suddenly the view opened before them in such a wide and breathtaking manner that Denise stood absolutely still in amazement at the sight. It was indeed beautiful and worth the trip. A few hundred feet below them was a seemingly endless meadow that spread like a soft blanket into the distance, surrounded by evergreen trees on all sides.

“Oh, my…” Denise had only seen such sights in pictures and was stunned to behold the reality with her own eyes. “I have never seen anything so beautiful. And I thought I had done so much.”

“Come on, let’s go. It’s downhill from here. You can rest awhile.”

She chuckled at this, thinking of their return climb later as she followed him willingly.

The meadow was filled with every type of wild flower that one could think of and then some. It was beautiful beyond compare. The two of them just stood and took it all in, saturating their senses to overflowing and then again repeating the process, over and over. Still they could not completely fathom the wonder of it all. Each wondered separately whether this might be what Adam and Eve had felt like in their new world. Just the two of them and apparently nothing to harm or concern them.

They talked for a long time in the meadow, first sitting among the flowers and then lying down to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the soft earth beneath their bodies. There were birds singing somewhere out of sight, gracing the late morning air with their carefree song. Denise lay beside Ron and studied him as deeply as she did her other surroundings. She felt almost like pinching herself to see if it was just a dream. This was one of those times in her life that she would like to freeze and keep forever, if she could. Nothing lasts forever, though—she reflected on how it was precisely because these moments are so rare and fleeting that we cherish them so deeply and want them to last forever. The irony is that if they did, we would soon take them for granted and they would cease to be precious to us. Best to leave well enough alone and be satisfied with those gems that came our way when we least expected them, she thought.

Soon enough, it was time to return to the cabin and for a time they made their way back along the route they had followed to the meadow. It was easier this time, being downhill. They walked hand-in-hand most of the way with Ron helping her where she required assistance to keep from falling. So far, the day had been exceptional, but it was only partially over.

Ron deviated from their previous course suddenly and took her back by way of a place that was special to him in his childhood. Denise recognized as soon as she was in sight of it that there was something unique about it. An ancient tree stood before her, taller than many of the others, stouter in its trunk and more gnarled and twisted in its branches. It had character and personality that none of the other, more ordinary trees had. She was somehow drawn to it. She identified with it. It was a feeling that she had not had since her own childhood, that age of wonder at all the world around you.

“I can see why you love this place. It’s so….” She paused in her search for the right description.

“I can’t put it into words, either. It just is, that’s all.”

There were very large nails sticking out the side of the tree, plainly placed for the convenience of young climbers. She let her eyes follow the path of the spikes and saw a rudimentary platform in the branches directly above her head. With a sudden impish grin, she began to scale the heights of this ancient denizen of the forest. Ron smiled with delight and began to climb in her footsteps. The old platform was weathered and worn, but it was sound enough to hold their combined weights. Denise stood upon it and stretched her arms to her sides and beamed like the sun itself.

“I always wanted a tree house. My Mother said I would kill myself and she was so firm about it that my Dad gave in and let her have her way. It didn’t stop me from climbing them, though. Every chance I got. She might as well have given in for all the good it did. I still love them. What is it about being up in a tree that makes one feel so alive?”

“If I knew the answer to that, I would bottle it and make a fortune. It isn’t much, but to me and Hunter this was a castle in the sky.” He, too, had a look of joy about him. It was hard to find places on the platform that he could stand fully erect anymore, the branches above him draping over his head, so he sat down and Denise joined him in silent veneration. At length Ron was the one to break the silence.

“I never was one of those that worshipped the earth and trees, putting more importance on them than on human beings, but I always had a fondness, a reverence for the outdoors that left me speechless. It was a big part of my childhood.”

“Something we have in common.” She let her gaze remain where it was-on the branches above her. In a moment she leaned back and rested fully prone on the wooden flooring.

Ron was so drawn to her that he could not look at the tree from then on. This was an indescribably lovely woman, putting all of the beauty of nature to shame. She was tremendously appealing to him, lying there so fragile and vulnerable. He wanted her so badly he had to force himself to look away. She was like a powerful drug addiction and he knew that he would one day burst if he could not have her completely. But now was not the time. “We should be going soon. Hunter will be back and I want you to meet him.” He led the way, climbing down first and helping where he could as she descended. It was more as a show of affection; for it was obvious she had no need of assistance. She was a very capable woman. That, too, drew him to her.

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