Chapter One

“I promise to love you, for better or for worse. In sickness and in health. For richer or poorer.” He paused, his grey eyes staring at me and I almost thought he had forgotten the rest, that he needed the priest to repeat it, but he didn’t.

“Most importantly, I promise to cherish every living moment you have with me, every breath, every smile and every tear, for without you, my life does not exist, for as long as we both live.” he lifted my hands he was clasping, placing a kiss on my knuckles.

And I believed him.

* * *

"Sweety, you're going to hurt yourself."

The sun was hot.

It felt like my shoulders were peeling from under my thin white cotton shirt. I was sweating, my forehead was drenched like I had run a marathon, but I hadn’t.

I was breathless, yet I hadn't moved more than a metre in the past sun. I sometimes forget how unforgiving the sun was out in the country.

"I'm fine." I said trying not to sound like I was panting, but I was. I felt like a dog that had it’s tongue out, waiting for a bowl of water.

"Your dad can take care of this."

I looked up, my eyes squinting to make out my mother. She held out a water bottle and I grabbed the icy beverage gulping the entire bottle in seconds. My body wanted water no matter how much I drank, it wanted more.

"I'm used to it mum."

"Not at 30 honey, maybe back when you were a teenager." she smiled, crow's feet appearing at her eyes. "You're burning already." she reached out and touched my face, her hands were cold from holding the bottle and I welcomed the touch.

It was over thirty degrees out here in the middle of summer and it was only nine in the morning. I could not imagine what the sun would be like at noon.

Pulling out lavenders from the ground was harder than I remembered, back in the day I could do a whole line of planting before I needed a break. But now, oh well, I barely got ten out.

Mum was right, when is she ever not? But it had been ten years and I didn't have the same touch as I did back there.

"You're going to get sunburnt."

"That's alright." I shrugged, I had nowhere to go for anyone to see the uneven tan that would be caused by my wheat hat that had gaps in it. I wiped the sweat off my forehead handing her the bottle back.

"Well...get back inside soon. I'll dish up food and Andy is coming to help dad remove all the roots anyway. We can get the new plantation in soon."

I nodded. I waited till mum walked back, slightly limping from her sore foot, before I looked back at the lavenders.

Dad liked to pull out the dry ones and replant them rather than waste water. He said water was precious. It also was efficient to do this at the start of every season, the lavenders might not be ready for that season but for the next one so at all times there were still more than half the crop ready for the markets.

Lavenders weren't their main source of income, with the numerous cows and milk they produced, this was just a pastime to keep my nearly retired parents busy.

I crouched on the ground, somehow I was still out of breath but I kept pulling at the flowers trying to keep my fingers and mind busy. I liked being distracted. I liked to focus on the way to breathe, the way my hands had to curl around the bottom of the lavender stalks that were dry and tug, one two three, tug again. Keep tugging till they come loose.

I could feel the dry leaves through my gloves piercing my dry palms, I didn't remember them hurting this much when I was younger either. Then again, there were a lot of things I didn't remember when I was younger, or chose not to.

I frowned, trying to let my brain focus back on the lavenders in front of me. I didn't like my mind straying, I didn't come here for my mind to stray.

I looked up at the blue sky, silently praying for some rain. It was only my second day back at the farm and I was already missing the gloomy rainy weather back in Melbourne. It was so hot out here. I almost wondered how anything survived here. I wondered how I survived all those years ago, perhaps that’s why I was so excited to get out of here as soon as the first opportunity came, not thinking about the long term effects.

It rained heavily in winter but in summer the sun did not forgive, it was dry, hot, and water was a precious resource.

The farm had main rain tanks that they used in summer scarcely, in fact there were so many solar panels that it could fund a whole apartment in the city with electricity for a month. Dad had implemented so many rain water tanks he would help out the neighbours when they needed it. The cows had numerous dug up lakes that would collect rain, often they would dry out or be filled with muds but they didn't care. For the cows, rain was rain, water was water, they weren't fussy as humans.

I sighed giving up with the lavender sitting on the ground.

"Hello Arabella." a deep but familiar voice said.

I froze.

No, it can't be.

I was almost too scared to look back till I heard him continue to speak.

"You haven't aged a day."

I blinked, the voice magically sounding different. I looked up, holding a hand to block out the sun that was rising fast behind him. It was no longer as deep as I first heard it.

"Oh...Andy." I said, my heart calming down.

Andy frowned, "You don't look that pleased to see me, how long has it been, five years?"

I smiled softly tucking the loose brown curl behind my ear, "That's a bit dramatic, I was here for Christmas two years ago."

"Still an awful long time!"

"Yeah...I guess." I said as my heart slowed down, I didn't know why I thought he would be here, but I guess I hadn't heard someone call me by my full name in a long time. It almost brought me back to remembering how we first met. My name.

And right now I hated my name for it.

"Hello, Earth to Bella!"

"Sorry." I said shaking my head realising I was tuning out Andy, "It's just so hot here. I forgot how to function."

Andy laughed holding out a water bottle to me, "Here have some." his water bottle was as cold as mums, and it was half drunk, the water probably had backwash and I absolutely hated sharing water bottles. It was only rarely did I share someone's water.

"That's fine. I might go inside." I said.

"I'll come with you. Your mum called over and said she was making eggs, how could I say no."

I smiled getting up, ignoring his outstretched hand, that he slowly retracted to hold the water bottle, with both hands.

"Mum does make a good breakfast." she always did. When we were younger we needed the energy to work on the farm with dad. In the city I was often skipping breakfast, there wasn't much I would do there.

Growing up in the country I had a minimum education with a degree in environment and agriculture, in the city no one cared about the trees, the streets, there wasn't a real job there for me that didn't get me bored.

Growing up here I always had something to do, there, I was just a sitting duck. I was waiting to be hunted, and when the gun fired, I ran. Literally.

"You good?"

"Yeah." I said as we walked back to the house.

"You're not as chatty as I remember Bella, remember when we were kids and we used to ride the cows like they were horses and I used to beg you to shut up or I would throw manure on you. Now I have to tell you I will throw manure if you don't speak."

"Oh Andy...we're a long way from those days."

"I guess...somethings don't change though."

"Oh really?" I asked looking up to see his blue eyes now that the sun was shining on his face rather than behind him. His boyish looks hadn't changed much and even though he was the same age as me, nearing 30, he still looked like a teenage boy, just one with a slight touch of grey hair.

"Yeah you're still as beautiful as I remember."

I rolled my eyes opening the back door, letting him into the cool house before I followed, "And you're still a big fat liar." I said as I locked the fly screen.

Next chapter