Bluebell flowers
Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Didn’t have hills and wasn’t close to the sea, but Shelly Grover lived there once, and her husband and daughters still did, in a white farmhouse with mint-green shutters. It sat by the Neenah, the river that wound through Windford like a loose silver ribbon.

Sleep tight. Kiss me goodnight.

The town was known for its loamy soil—and winds, of course. They played across the water behind the farmhouse and billowed the sheets hanging on the line and knitted knots in the Grover girls’ hair. Still blond, Shelly noticed, but less fair than it used to be.

My towheaded twins.

In December, the tufted seeds of milkweed rode the gusts like golden feathers or silky snow. Fairy floss, her girls called it.

Catch a pixie, make a wish, set it free to find your fortune.

The seeds of the columbine Shelly planted in front must have traveled on a breeze, too. In June, she found volunteers flowering behind the house, in the bed the new Mrs. Grover had expanded to make room for annuals.

Fine, bright blooms, happy in the sun, along came the wind and blew down one.

Shelly wasn’t sure how she felt about Joyce Grover’s snapdragons, marigolds, and zinnias. Or the persistently smiling pansies. Or the blowsy petals of the petunias. Shelly didn’t much like annuals. They didn’t come back.

Pretty poppies and forget-me-nots and ways to say I love you.

Few folks visited Windford. Sheep grazed on the floodplains. Crops thrived. Hawks perched in weak weather and soared in strong, kiting on updrafts of air.

Sweet and low, sweet and low, how sweet that memory, how long ago.

On clear nights, the sky spilled stars straight to the ground.

Doesn’t matter how big you are. You will always be my babies.

Your wife would have wanted you to move on, the Grovers’ neighbor Jack Olson told Henry after Shelly’s death, but Henry disagreed. At first. For a while. Then one day, Jack said, My cousin Joyce is in town. Come on over for dinner and meet her. Bring the girls.

Honeysuckle for affection.

A quiet place, outsiders called Windford, driving by the river, noting the sheep, corn, hawks, and stars, while swiftly passing through. But Joyce Olson stayed. She had three good reasons to stay. And Shelly Grover could almost sympathize, could almost understand.

Bluebells for constancy.

Shelly, too, found Windford difficult to leave.

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