“Jarrett, where are we going?”
“Shh! No questions!” Readjusting his gentle hold on Talia’s hand, Jarrett turned with a brilliant smile, excitement gleaming in his eyes as he led the young woman through the underbrush and dense clusters of trees. “We’re almost there.”
Over the past weeks, Talia had become proficient at holding Drew with one arm, this unusual skill allowing her to hold both the cat and Jarrett’s hand whenever they walked together.
Mindful of her steps, Talia’s feet paused as Jarrett moved to stand directly in front of her, the squirrel perched on his shoulder anxiously skittering from one side to the other.
“Alright Talia, close your eyes please. I promise I won’t let you trip. You trust me, right?”
“Of course I do.” The young woman gave a small chuckle as she obeyed Jarrett’s request, making certain that the cat dangling from her arm wouldn’t slip as she waited in eager anticipation. “They’re closed. Now what?”
Jarrett waved a hand in front of the girl’s eyes to make certain that she couldn’t see. “Not much farther, just keep walking”
The first change Talia noticed was the warmth of sunlight against her cheeks, the low chatter of birds replaced by the gentle rustling of grass as it tickled her legs.
“A few more steps, Talia. There we are. You can look on the count of three. Ready? One…Two…Three!”
It took Talia’s eyes a moment to adjust as she squinted in the bright afternoon light, a gasp escaping her parted lips as she struggled to believe what she saw. Wildflowers of every imaginable shade and form billowed over the open field she now stood in, the kaleidoscope of colors stretching from the forest’s edge to the base of the mountains far to the east. The gentle breeze made the plain ripple and roll like ocean waves, the low babble of a nearby brook distinguishable above the whispering grass.
“Oh Jarrett, it’s absolutely beautiful.”
Enjoying her reactions, the young man dipped his head in thanks as he pulled a hand up to distractedly pet over QB’s tail. “Pretty, isn’t it? Maren found it last night before we made camp. Thought you might enjoy it.”
“It’s wonderful. I’ve never been very good with painting landscapes, but I think even I would try it with a place like this.”
“And I bet you’d do a great job. Come on. I have a place we can sit.”
The grass made a soft crunching sound from beneath Jarrett’s blanket as Talia sat, carefully placing Drew on her lap as she watched the young man move to settle down beside her.
Acting rather unimpressed, the cat was content to stay curled up in the folds of Talia’s skirt, the girl’s gentle touch urging a low purr from Drew as she slipped back into light sleep.
Recognizing his moment to act, QB carefully moved down Jarrett’s arm to sit atop the blanket, keeping a wary eye on the slumbering cat before scurrying off toward the tranquil brook flowing just out of reach.
Talia’s hand methodically felt over the thick white fur of Drew’s slender back as she and Jarrett talked, their conversation taking them in every direction as they sat in the warm sunshine. A simplistic idea soon pushed its way into the young woman’s thoughts, her hands deftly picking through the flowers that surrounded them as she began to weave them together.
Unaware of what Talia was doing, Jarrett continued to casually talk on, having since moved to lay beside her as he watched the wisps of clouds lazily roll above them. “I don’t know why Bash still insists that we’d be better off going through the pass instead of around the-hey!”
Giggling freely as she threw the flower crown over the boy’s eyes, Talia adjusted the way it laid as he slowly sat up to face her. “There we go. Probably the best I’ve ever made.”
Even QB returned to see what was so amusing, the squirrel’s high pitched chattering receiving a quizzical glance from his companion as the small creature moved to perch himself upon the young man’s knee.
A smile hinted at the corners of Jarrett’s lips, unable to contain the urge to laugh along with Talia and QB as he carefully removed the array of flowers in order to admire the girl’s handiwork. “Well, color me impressed. How…How did you do this?”
Tilting her head as her quiet laughter subsided, Talia’s gaze remained fixed on Jarrett even as Drew shifted and stirred in her sleep. “You want me to teach you?”
“Well, sure. Here, you see how these stems are all sort of braided together? This is how you start.”
Talia was just as much a patient teacher as Jarrett was a persistent student, neither noticing the late afternoon sun as it began to make its daily descent toward the forest.
“Hey! I think I did it!” Jarrett eagerly held his completed crown aloft, his smile almost like that of a child as he quickly turned to face Talia, his excitement holding despite the few flowers which tumbled away from the others now adorning the young woman’s head.
“I think you did!” Jarrett’s eagerness and excitement was truly what made Talia’s smile brighten, placing her own flower crown back onto him as she gave a small laugh in satisfaction. “Now we match.”
“We do indeed. Look, even QB learned a thing or two.”
The squirrel’s every step was quiet and careful as he slowly approached Talia, a collection of tiny flowers knotted together clutched in his little paws. With one swift motion, QB tossed the miniature crown over Drew’s head, the chain sliding to dangle from one of her twitching ears as he scurried back to the safety of Jarrett’s shoulder.
The cat lazily opened a single eye, looking between the flower crown and the squirrel before shaking the flowers from her head as she tried to go back to sleep.
“Oh, come now, Drew. QB made a very nice crown for you. There, much better. It looks very pretty.”
The cat’s glance was unamused to say the least, but she made no move to rid herself of the flowers a second time.
It wasn’t until the last rays of golden light faded from view that the two reluctantly moved to stand, Talia repositioning Drew in her arms as she leaned up to leave a light kiss against the boy’s cheek.
Jarrett’s face grew visibly more red at the gesture, fighting to regain his composure as he quietly laughed away his momentary surprise. “What was that for?”
“It’s a thank you. I had a wonderful time, Jarrett. Thanks for taking the time to bring me here.”
The young man began to distractedly rub at the back of his neck as his smile grew a little wider. “You’re very welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much. I did too.”
As they made the long trek back toward their camp, Jarrett couldn’t seem to stop smiling, able to ignore even Drew’s threatening glances as he walked hand in hand with Talia through the darkened woods. The day had gone better than he had hoped, but it was more than just a good day, it was the very best kind. It had been a day spent with Talia.