Lost In Lavender
Merle began to rip the pages from the notebook but stopped. “Here, take it. I wrote down everything I could remember. It should get you started.”
Elise leafed through the pages. “You’re always so organized. Unlike some people.” She rolled her eyes. “I forgot a bunch of stuff.”
“I can get them for you.”
“No, I’m fine. It’ll do me good to improvise.”
“Nothing vital then, like toothpaste.” They walked back toward the manse. It looked smaller from the back, less imposing. There, under the eaves, was Elise’s nonfunctional window. “Did the fan work last night?”
“It rattles. But who cares, right? I’ll be here amongst all this beauty.”
Merle snuck a glance at her. Was she being sarcastic? Trying to put a good face on— whatever she was feeling? “I forgot to ask, how’s that guy you’re seeing? What’s his name? I know I met him at Christmas.”
“Scott? Oh, he’s fine.”
Merle waited for more but nothing more came. “He’s what? An accountant?”
“Right. Numbers, figures, columns. He’s a whiz.”
Again, a hint of sarcasm. “Successful, is he?”
“Partner at his firm.”
“What’s he think about this farm stay then? Did he want to come with you?”
Elise laughed, briefly. “A CPA on a farm? Can you imagine?”
Actually, Merle could imagine. Most of the guests here had the pallor of inside work. That was the point, wasn’t it? Get a tan, get your hands dirty?
“You didn’t ask him then.”
Elise sighed. “I wanted to come on my own. Use my muscles instead of my brain. Learn some French— okay, just a little. Experience a different way of life. I didn’t want to have my boyfriend watching me, buffering me from everyone, criticizing me.”
Merle frowned. “Does he— criticize?”
“Maybe I’m just sensitive. But whatever. I wanted to come alone. Is that so hard to fathom?”
“Of course not. It’s a great idea.” They had reached the gravel drive in front of the main house. Merle’s car waited there, under the willow. She still had questions. How was the food at dinner? How early did they go into the fields? Who were the others, where were they from? Why did you really come here alone? But Elise backed away. She was done talking, about herself, about the trip, and definitely about Scott.
“So, I’ll see you in ten days.” Merle opened her car door. Something about Elise’s expression, her stubborn chin, her dark eyebrows furrowed together, her tight mouth: it made Merle sad. What was going on with her?
“Sure. Okay,” Elise said.
“Have fun. And call me if anything comes up. I can be down here in a flash.”
“Like if I break my leg or something? Haha.” There was no humor in her fake laugh. “Bye, Merle.”
A shiver of melancholy ran through Merle as she drove away, down the farm lane to the road, the dust kicking up behind the car. Elise was visible in the rearview mirror, standing alone outside the barn. Would she be all right there? She was hardly a child, Merle reminded herself. She had a phone, she had people around her. If she didn’t like farm work, she could quit. Who was going to stop her? She wasn’t going to be vital to the operation of the lavender farm. And she had promised to call if she needed anything.
Merle sighed and turned right toward Avignon, heading across the edge of the plateau where the world’s best lavender was grown, where the beauty stretched on and on. She was glad she had seen it, at the right time, just before harvest. Glad Elise had asked her to drive her here, glad she’d taken a few photographs. Next week, these fields would be stubble. Like most things in life, timing is everything.
Time. Calendars. Tick Tock. Life.