It follows on from Fields of Gold. So please enjoy and if you really want to know more about the characters, check out Stories For Homes.
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Alina tucked her hair behind her ears, the sea breeze tingled at her cheeks, numbing her nose. It was a freezing, snowy winter day. It had to be freezing for it to snow so close to the sea. She shivered, shoving her hands in her pockets as she trudged down to the village. Frauke had taken over the shop buying Alina’s father out despite his attempt to give it to her.
Alina shook her head. How Frauke had that effect on him she wasn’t sure. Okay, so that wasn’t quite the truth, she wasn’t exactly immune to Frauke’s soft smile or her laugh or that infuriating habit of being funny even when Alina was trying to be mad.
It had been two years since she gave up the city and came home. Two years of running a small country legal practice. It should bore her senseless but it didn’t. Contrary to every one of her doubts, she was happier than she’d ever been. She twiddled the ring on her finger, that had much to do with the owner of said soft smile too.
Neighbours who had once ceased to recognise her waved jolly hellos, asked how she was doing, how her parents were, and yes… how Frauke was too. She wasn’t Alina, the lawyer, anymore. She came as a unit with the people she loved.
“Pensive face, either you’ve forgotten what snow looks like or I left lemon juice in your tea cup.”
Alina beamed. In spite of the fact she was attempting not to. In spite of the fact that she needed to be serious and have an adult discussion, she knew she looked more like a besotted teenager. Ah well. “Lemon juice, really?”
Frauke turned around, seashell necklace clunking as she did so. Her hair burnt copper, her eyes a twinkling charcoal. “Made you smile, didn’t it?”
It had. Alina found herself smiling again then cleared her throat as a neighbour passed by the window. “I had a letter today.”
Frauke waved to the neighbour, one eye on her current piece of work. “You get lots of letters.”
So she’d seen it then. “It’s an amazing offer.”
“That’s how the supermarkets lure you in. Don’t listen, it’s not really buy one get one free at all.” Frauke’s clothes were splattered with clay, her fingers, her face. She was as messy at home.
“Funny.” Alina sighed knowing from the attempt at wit that Frauke was worried. “If I took it, I would be away most of the time.”
Frauke nodded, her eyes on the pot in her hands.
“It would mean leaving here for months.”
Frauke nodded again. Her gaze too intense on the pot, her eyes glinting with unshed tears. “You need to do what is best for you. You worked hard, I can’t expect you to give—“
“I ripped it up.”
The pot in Frauke’s hand clunked out of her grip. She stared, blinking a few times.
“Well say something.”
Frauke continued to stare. Her eyes so filled with shock it tickled Alina, making laughter spill from her lips.
“You… It’s… The wage they offered…” Frauke frowned. “The perks.”
“What would I need it for?” She leaned her hip against the counter, her usual space these days. “Did you really think I’d want to leave you?”
Frauke shrugged. She flexed her long neck, which Alina knew was to ward off tears. Soppy thing.
“I came to make sure you knew that.” Alina ran her finger over the clay covered countertop. “Didn’t want you worrying about it all day.”
“Mum wants to know if you want lunch.” She smiled. It wasn’t often Frauke was stuck for words. “I want to know if you’ll shut up early and come build a snowman.”
Frauke’s eyes lit up. She still didn’t seem to have the ability to speak.
“You remember when we used to build them as kids?” Alina knew full well she did but it was worth the smile on Frauke’s face. “Your grandmother wasn’t happy I’d stolen most of her carrots.”
“Well one snowman would be lonely.” Frauke’s voice sounded so quiet, so raw with tears. She wiped her hands on her jeans, shrugged on her thick jacket and flicked the sign to closed.
“Which is why I wanted to build a family.” Alina shook her head. She’d been a daft kid.
Frauke locked up, beaming at her. “And pets.”
Alina nodded the warmth of the smile filling her heart. “And they needed somewhere to live.”
“And neighbours.” Frauke walked close, kids skidded past on makeshift sleds, the lights in each shop twinkled as Christmas filled the air.
“And their pets.” Alina took Frauke’s hand and dragged her up the hill.
“Think you cleaned out her pantry.” Frauke tugged at her. “Why the rush?”
“I’m cold.” She tried to keep the grin off her face.
“Alina… what are you—oh.” Frauke halted, a stunned look on her face. Her eyes shed the brimming tears.
Alina motioned to the carrots on the ground. It wasn’t her most suave moment by all means but it made her giggle. She’d hoped Frauke would have done the same. Tears, she hadn’t expected.
“You’ve never said it before.” Frauke sounded even more hoarse.
“So you didn’t want me to?” Maybe not the cleverest idea. Maybe it had been rash. It wasn’t like she ever said anything remotely sweet. Maybe Frauke liked it that way. She stared down at the carrots.
“Of course.” Frauke squeezed her hand. “I just… No one has ever told me they loved me with vegetables before.”
Alina shrugged. “I was going for twenty two carrots but that only got me to ‘I lo.’”
“Yes, I can see why that would be a problem.” Frauke’s tears dribbled faster, then her lips parted and that soft, warm laughter rippled out, then built until it was a roar.
“Are you mocking my healthy option for bearing my heart? They give you vitamin A, you know.”
Frauke bent double, her shoulders shaking with the laughter which was now silent punctuated with gasps.
“It’s a good way to show love isn’t blind, right?” Alina fought hard to stop the rumbling giggles pouring out.
Frauke grabbed her and dragged to next to the wonky U.
“What are you doing?”
“Shuffle your feet.” She held Alina’s hand, shoving show out in front of her with her boots. “It takes the both of us.”
Frauke turned her to look at the tracks they’d just made. “Come on, let’s go warm up, I’m freezing.”
“I’m not.” Alina’s teeth chattered but she didn’t feel cold.
“Let’s go home.” Frauke led her through the gate and turned to close it. Alina looked at her parents’ garden knowing she’d have to explain to her mother later but it didn’t matter. The carrots and shovelled snow spelled out why her heart bubbled with joy.
‘I love you II’
Home. Yeah, she was home.
If you’d like to know how Alina and Frauke got to carrots, the first part of their story, Fields of Gold, is in Stories For Homes.
Stories For Homes
It’s a special project to help people who aren’t as lucky with vegetables. For those who don’t have somewhere warm. There’s over sixty stories from many authors crammed in and every penny, every single cent, dime, dollar, euro, pistachio nut, goes to Shelter. For those who don’t know, Shelter work to help the homeless and those threatened with homelessness. Debi Alper and Sally Swingewood allowed us to be a part of making a difference. You get stories, someone else gets the help they need.
That’s worth a massive smile!