Four hours and six rest stops into what should have been a two and a half-hour drive; Ben pulled off of the two-lane highway up a dirt road. Rachel had agreed to go away for a few days while Derek’s face was all over the news. Becky was too close to her due date to leave the boys behind, and leaving them with Rhett was not an option for the moment. Rachel hoped that a road trip with the boys would not be too much for Ben, but he seemed to be enjoying himself most of all.
“I used to come up here with my brothers and my dad when I was a teenager for a few weeks every summer. My grandfather built this house. My grandparents lived here their whole married life. It’s tranquil up here, peaceful. My brothers usually grab it on weekends in the summer.” Ben said as he pulled into the long driveway.
The old farmhouse came into view around the bank of trees. It stood proudly with its sharply pitched roof and a big wrap-around porch. Although it was old and full of character, it was well kept. Ben pulled Rachel’s new SUV up to the front of the house. He grabbed the luggage and Rachel grabbed the box of groceries they had stopped to buy back in town, five miles back down the road as the boys ran off towards the lake behind the house.
“No swimming guys. Tommy, please hold Luke’s hand.” Rachel shouted towards the boys.
“What?” Rachel asked.
“I used to do the same thing. The lake is pretty shallow for about twenty feet.”
“Luke has only just learned how to swim; it just makes me nervous.”
“I get it. Why don’t we go settle in? We are the only ones up here; no one will bother them.”
Rachel stepped up onto the old wooden porch, noticing the well-worn porch swing. Ben opened the front door and stepped inside as Rachel followed. The old farmhouse had a welcoming, lived-in feel with a tall staircase off to the left that led up the second floor, and to the right was a living room, the furniture, clearly second hand. Directly opposite, the front door, were a set of double doors. Ben put down the suitcases and walked across the foyer to open them both. Two old screen doors sat in front. Rachel walked up next to Ben and looked out at a small lake behind the house. From the front of the house, you couldn’t see it. The water reflected on the ceiling of the foyer, as the breeze blew threw the house. It was late-September, and one of the last properly hot days.
“Ben, this is so beautiful.” Rachel said as she looked out over the lake. Seeing the boys splashing and looking at the small fish in the lake.
“It is, isn’t it? I don’t come up here a whole lot, I never find the time. What would you like to do first swim, unpack, relax?”
“How about see the rest of the house and put the groceries away?”
“Okay sounds like a plan.”
Ben showed Rachel the three bedrooms upstairs along with the bathroom that had a clawfoot tub, large enough for her and Ben to fit into. Ben grabbed the small box of groceries they had bought as he made his way down the hallway to the kitchen. Most of the appliances would be considered vintage at this point, but Rachel found it charming. As they put away the few groceries they would need for the weekend, Rachel took stock of what they had bought.
“I think we forgot the milk at the store.” Rachel said, looking around for it.
“Maybe I left it in the SUV.” Ben turned and walked out to go to find it.
He returned a minute later empty-handed.
“I must have left it on the counter at the store. There’s a chance Margo might run it up here after the store closes, if not I will run into town and get some tomorrow morning. Do we need it for dinner?”
“No, I bought lamb chops we could cook them on the stovetop or grill them. Is there a grill?”
“Is there a grill? There is a grill. It’s so old and so well seasoned, I think it is as old as I am. That is the granddaddy of grills.”
“I didn’t know grill talk got you so hot, pun intended.” She laughed again.
Ben laughed too, from the gut.
“Well we only have one rule here, everything stops to take in the sunset on the back porch. We have about 25 minutes or so. Are you game?”
“Absolutely, let me just marinate these lamb chops.”
“Do you want some help?”
“No, thank you. How about you go start that sexy grill. It will time out perfectly.”
Tommy and the boys ran into the kitchen.
“Mom, can we swim? Please?”
“I’ll keep an eye on them, while I am starting the grill,” Ben said.
“Alright. Just for a little bit, it is going to get dark soon.”
“Come on, guys; I’ll show you your rooms. I put your suitcases up there already.”
“Such service!” Luke said, very matter of fact.
Rachel set to starting dinner watching the clock that hung on the wall; she wanted to see this amazing sunset that everything stopped for. Hearing her boys squeal and laugh was like salve to her wounded soul. She finished just in time; after the sunset, they would be ready to grill. The veggies she had bought to go with were cleaned and chopped, and the lamb chops were marinating. She washed her hands and walked out of the kitchen out onto the back porch.
Ben had transformed the porch from charming to luxurious; There was another swing that faced the lake, it now had cushions on it, so did the deck chairs. The citronella candles had been lit as the particles floating through the air above the lake glowed orange. It was like stepping into a dream. Ben turned as he saw her walk out of the back door.
“Ben, this is gorgeous!” Rachel said.
“Wait, wait.” Ben handed her a glass of red wine as he gestured to the swing.
Rachel sat and sunk into the plush cushion. The air had cooled considerably as the sun began to set. Ben grabbed the blanket he had hung over the back of the swing and set it over her lap before he sat next to her. Rachel leaned into Ben and looked up at him. He stroked the side of her face and kissed her gently.
“My grandfather started this tradition. No matter what were doing here at the lake, everything stopped for these ten minutes or so. It brought everyone together before the night’s festivities got started. Usually, the grown-ups would have a drink or two. I remember the first time I was offered a drink; I felt like a man. My grandfather handed me a scotch, it was more water than scotch, but man, I didn’t care. I’ve had a lot of great memories out here.”
“That’s sweet. How old were you?”
“Maybe fifteen. As I got older, there was less and less water. I can’t smell scotch till this day without thinking of my grandfather out here on this porch.”
“That is amazing. It is a treasure.”
“It is, and so are you. Before you came into my life, I thought I had everything, and then you came along, and your boys and now I couldn’t imagine life without you.”
“I love you, Ben.”
“I love you too.”
“We should call the boys up; it’s getting chilly.”
“Nah, let them play. They’ll come up when they get cold.”
Rachel smiled and took a sip of her wine and laid her head on Ben’s shoulder as she watched the sun setting and her boys having the time of their life, she was so very happy.
As the last of the daylight faded, Rachel called the boys up to wash up for dinner. She went upstairs with the boys to get them washed and redressed as Ben set to grilling dinner. Rachel changed into a cotton sundress for dinner and pulled her hair down, so it fell softly around her shoulders. She came out onto the back porch hearing music playing. She recognised the artist right away. It was Etta James; it was the first song they had danced to in Ben’s office, back in Chicago. Rachel smiled; Ben’s sentimentality warmed her heart.
He walked up to her taking her into his arms.
“You look amazing. Will you dance with me?”
“Thank you. Of course.”
They began to sway to the music.
“This is how we do things “lake style,” Ben said before he leant down and kissed Rachel.
Before they knew it, they were standing still in the middle of the back porch not dancing but kissing. It was the type of kiss that made the whole world float away.
“Ewww Mom,” Evan said.
Rachel pulled away embarrassed as the boys came back up onto the porch. They had come down before Rachel and had already been out in the yard catching lightning bugs. Luke brought the jar up onto the porch proudly.
“Look, mommy; we got so many!” He said proudly.
“Wow, that is super cool.” Rachel said as she bent down to inspect the jar of insects.
“Dinner’s ready,” Ben said as he put the lamb chops onto the big plate and finished pulling the vegetables off of the grill.
“Go wash up again, guys.” Rachel said as Luke handed her the jar of bugs.
She set the jar down on the railing of the porch.
After dinner, which they ate out on the back deck with the noise of the frogs and crickets serenading them. Ben and Rachel curled back up on the swing, as the boys went back to catching bugs. It was getting late, but the boys were having so much fun. Rachel swung her feet onto Ben’s lap as he happily rubbed them for her. They were both completely relaxed. The moon reflected off of the lake as they swung slowly.
“Thank you for bringing us up here. Look how happy the boys are. You are a good man; I love you, Ben Carter.”
“Rachel, I love you too. I was hoping that I would get to bring you here someday. It means a lot to me. I have spent some wonderful and some tough times here. I know it sounds stupid, but it feels like this house was magic for me, it seemed to heal broken hearts, cures loneliness, and so much more.”
Rachel leant forward and rubbed the side of Ben’s cheek.
“My brothers and I would camp out on this porch when it got sweltering. We had so much fun out here.”
Rachel lent back as Ben rubbed the arch of her foot and Rachel moaned.
“That feels great.” She said.
“Rachel, I want to ask you something.” Ben looked at her.
“Sitting here on this porch with you, the boys playing the yard, this is what life should be. I’ve waited for a long time for the perfect woman to come along. I didn’t think she existed until I first saw you. The more time I spend with you, the more in love with you I fall. I want to spend the rest of my life falling for you every day. Rachel, will you marry me?”
Rachel was speechless.
“Ben, I don’t know what to say.”
“I know I sprung this on you. I’m sorry, it just felt right. You don’t have to answer right now.”
“Okay, you’ll think about it?”
“Okay, I will marry you, under one condition, the boys must consent too. If they aren’t ready, then we will have to wait.”
“Are you serious? You’ll marry me?” Ben could not believe Rachel had said yes. It was his dream come true.
“As long as the boys are okay with it, yes.”
Ben slid Rachel’s feet off of his lap and stood up. He reached out for her, and she stood up and wrapped her arms around his neck. Ben pulled her close as he kissed her.