"What do I do with this?" I asked, confused.
I felt stupid, it was weird being back at the farm.
"You stick that onto the cow's titts."
"You know the-,"
"I know what they are called Andy, they have a scientific name..."
"Hahaha look at you al prim and proper now, we used to call them that as kids."
"Yes but we are shy of thirty now. We can't call some cows udders that!"
Andy scratched the back of his head frowning, "Sorry, I guess." he shrugged.
I shook my head, "Whatever, so where do these go just stick them on?" He nodded bending down to show me. There was a lot of technology in ten years. Last time I came down for Christmas I was eating and drinking, not helping around the farm.
Before that I was milking the cows the old fashioned way, the farm was not this bad 7 years ago. The plugs suction onto the cow's udders and I could see the milk being taken to join the rest of the milk that would be filtered and then sent off to be purified before it was safe for humans to drink.
"Easier than it looks."
"I doubt that." I said, sighing. I was worried that the cows would kick me in the face from this angle, a worry that I never had a few years ago.
"Come on, you'll get the hang of it and then we can go to my dad's farm and do it all again."
I groaned, "Wow, this is so much fun!"
Andy laughed as we picked up the crate and moved along, "Speaking of fun...a few of us are getting together tonight to drink. Did you um...want to come?"
"Where is it?"
"Just the neighbours."
"Andy you do realise in our country the neighbours means a solid twenty minute drive away?"
"Yeah it's fine. I'm driving and if we get totally smashed we can crash. I'm sure George won't mind me bringing along a pretty lady."
"He bought out the Hopman's farm three years ago. They have a million chickens over there so we can have some roast for dinner."
I winced, "When you put it like that...I'll think about it. I don't think I should get 'smashed' at 29."
"Stop mentioning your age all the time Bella. We'll be fine." Andy got to work on the next cow and I tried to follow suit.
The Hopmans were the next door neighbours to Andy's farm, and by next door I meant that one of their chicken paddock fences probably touched Andy's cattle fence. I wondered if I should go. I had only been here for a day, did I want to run into people that I knew from years ago.
If Andy was going there was bound to be some of our old friends, would they recognise me? Every time I would come down to visit I would never stay more than a few days, I never had a time to see people. Yet this time I did.
"How long are you staying this time?" Andy asked as we finished linking up the rest of the cows, now we had to walk back and get rid of the suction caps as they would have already collected all the milk, and let the cows back out into the paddocks to graze.
"Just a few weeks." I shrugged.
"Wow...such a long time. Is everything alright?"
"Why do you ask that?"
"Well I've never seen you for a long time Bells, when you do come by the time I hear about it you're gone. Like a day or two." Andy said, casting me a confused look.
"I have a bit of a break now and wanted some fresh country air. I was starting to miss it, you know."
Andy laughed as he released the cows, "Yeah...a decade would make you miss the hometown and the friends you left behind."
There was an awkward silence after he said that, he knew it, I knew it, and maybe even the cows knew it as they rushed into the green paddock.
"So I'll head over around seven, did you want me to give you a ride or do you not want to come."
"I might." I said, "How casual is it."
"Super, don't dress up or anything. I'll probably just wear this." Andy said, "Maybe a new shirt that has some dried up milk from the cows."
"How delicious." I shuddered, "Sounds good. I'll see you at seven."
* * *
Andy was at the doorstep seven on the dot, I could hear him talking to mum as I tied my hair up. He said don't dress up but all my city clothing seemed to be a bit dressy compared to what people wore here. So I had changed numerous times before settling on a black lace singlet under a thick woollen hoodie that I had borrowed from dad. That way you couldn't see what I was wearing, or see how tight the singlet was across my body.
I slipped on my flats and walked outside.
"Hey Bells." Andy was leaning in the doorway. He lied when he said he wasn't dressed up, in a tight satin black shirt that fitted his frame perfectly he looked casual and a bit formal.
"I thought we weren't dressing up? Or do you have a girlfriend coming that you want to impress?" I teased.
I was only joking but seeing Andy go a little bit red made me curious.
"Not everyone wants a big rock on their fingers. Get in the car. See you Megan, I can't promise you I will bring back Bells by her curfew." He yelled to my mum.
I rolled my eyes closing the door following him to the car, "How many people are exactly coming tonight?"
A few were many, and a small gathering was a full party. I was breathless speaking to numerous dressed up people, people ages from eighteen to fifty and I felt like I didn't belong in either group. I followed Andy along like a lost puppy as he talked to everyone he knew. I ran into a few people from school or Uni but thankfully ten years changed a lot and apart from a ‘hey how are you going’ there wasn't much talk.
It was a small country town but there wasn't that much gossip going around, or maybe they saw me as an outsider and didn't let me in on any. Or maybe, the gossip was me.
Andy looked at me after a few moments, realising my discomfort.
"Do you want to go outside for a bit? It's a bit hot in the house."
I shrugged, "I'm okay, only if you want to." I said even though I wanted to.
Andy grabbed a wine glass and a beer bottle from the table and nodded his head, "Let's sit on the kerb like we used to as kids."
I followed him out the front, past the parked cars that seemed to have no parking rules, some cars probably getting locked in from leaving due to the mess. He sat on the kerb that was a hundred metres from the house and handed me the wine glass.
Nothing was chilled here, I guess ice was too precious to use and the fridge was already stocked with other drinks the teenagers had brought.
I could hear the music from all the way out here.
"Did you have a fight again."
The wine glass met my lips but the wine didn't make it. My eyes shot up to look at Andy.
"What?" I asked.
"You and your husband, did you guys have a fight again?"
"What are you talking about?" I asked, getting irritated, the wine glass still at my lips.
"Last time you were down here was Christmas two years ago, and that was because you and Jasper had a fight."
How did he know we had a fight?
"Andy...you're getting a bit personal right now. I don't divulge information like that. I just wanted to see mum and dad." I lied as I let the rest of the lukewarm wine go down my throat.
"I'm just asking as a friend."
"I'm fine. If I want to talk about it I will."
"Okay...no need to get all defensive about it. I just asked a question."
"One that you have no right to ask." I snapped.
"Why not? We've been neighbours since we were born. I miss you sometimes and if Jasper is being a dick then I'll punch him! You never let him punch him back then so I can punch him now"
I raised an eyebrow looking at Andy. I couldn't imagine him and Jasper talking let alone throwing a punch, the boys never liked each other and I could never imagine them liking each other anyway.
"Look, thank you for your concern but I'm fine. I just wanted to see my parents."
"Ok...fine. I'm getting another beer." Andy got up from the kerb we were sitting on, walking back towards the house. I placed the empty wine glass on the kerb sighing. I grabbed my phone from my pocket looking at the lock screen. No calls, no texts. There wasn't even a notification when I had full reception.
Should I call him? Was he wondering where I was?
And then I realised he probably didn't care. He was busy, he was travelling, I shouldn't disturb him with trivial matters like I just plucked ten lavender bushes and my palms were bleeding.
What type of husband would want to be disturbed with a message like that?
Not mine...that's for sure.
Perhaps before we got married, he would have kissed those hands better, made sure every single sore spot had hand cream on it and massaged my arms. Now, he wouldn’t even give it another glance.
There was a clank bringing me away from my thoughts as a clear bottle was placed on the ground, Andy sat down holding up the wine bottle.
I looked at the half empty bottle, I shouldn't. I couldn't drink like I used to. This was going to kill me tomorrow, yet I found myself holding out my wine glass.
"Hit me." I said, I wanted it to forget him.
Andy 'tsk', "You never hit a girl Bella."
"Not like that."
"Not like anything." he said as he filled my glass right to the top.