The change isn’t immediate after we cross the border into Kentucky. It’s many miles before I notice how the trees brush the skyline for miles around- no tall city buildings to mar it. There are no power lines or poles. Katherine explains that most of that stuff is run underground so as not to intrude on the farmland.
We’re on a country road for what seems like forever. I lose track of time and it takes me a moment to realize when she’s pulled into a long dirt driveway.
I stare up at the large country house in front of us. It’s surprisingly nice. I bite back a nasty pure-Yankee comment.
It isn’t long before we’re out back. I start for a steep hill, intending to climb it. Katherine lets out a low laugh behind me. I turn.
“I thought we were going hiking?” I ask.
“Not the Northern, city-Yank way.” She says teasingly. I blink as she pulls a tarp off of something the size of a huge dog.
I’ve never seen anything like it before. It’s not quite a motorcycle, but it isn’t a car either. It’s rough and badass looking.
“It’s a four wheeler.” Katherine says with pride. I roll my eyes, misunderstanding.
“I can see it has four wheels.”
“No, that’s what it’s called. Also known as an all-terrain-vehicle. It’s for climbing the hills. Faster than walking or taking a bike. Safer too, with how steep they are.” She dangles the keys at me before sitting on it and smoothly starting it. It’s louder than a car, but we only have to talk slightly above normal volume.
“It doesn’t look like its intended for more than one person….” I mutter. She trills another laugh.
“Technically it’s not. But come on; I thought you came down here to live a little! Stop being all safe and boring in your world of offices, desks, and four walls. Welcome to Kentucky. We break the rules, get dirty, and go fast.” Her smile is contagious and I find myself stepping forward easily.
I never thought I could feel like a bird. She drives so fast that we lift off the ground at times. Part of me is terrified and starts to tell her to slow down.
But my eyes lift and look around the expanse of forest that sprawls in all directions. The trees tickle the sky as the wind plays with my hair. I don’t even regret not pulling it back.
Katherine pauses at the top of one of the largest hills. She turns the monster off and we both automatically adjust our breathing so it is practically silent.
There’s a valley below us, full of purple flowers. I know I should know their name (Mom would be disappointed), but I can’t see to quite reach that mind or knowledge that was my “Yankee self”.
I’m too busy soaking in and gulping down this new knowledge. This beautiful experience of nature for which there are no words. Only sensations. Feelings.
That teasing tug on my hair the wind does. I’ve never had anyone play with my hair and it makes me smile that the wind down in this beautiful place knows of my secret desire for it.
The slight scratches on my arms from snagging branches and thorny bushes on our ride. It’s my fault for wearing a tank top. Katherine smartly wore long sleeves.
I suck in a breath and it feels so cool, so clean. Nothing like this air in the city. I know that. Nothing like these smells. The forest is alive with plants, animals. Life.
I look at Katherine and she meets my gaze.
“Let’s just come live up here.” I say seriously. She smiles softly, knowing that she has been perfectly successful in showing me exactly what she loves about being a country girl.
“Forever. Just us. We won’t tell anyone.” She replies, just as serious.
I wrap that fantasy up neatly in a box. I know it’s a lie. Obviously we can’t just run away and live here.
But is the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me.
I tuck the box carefully away in my mind. Protected. Safe. The lock is complicated so that it can’t just be tossed away.
It is thrown, nicked, burned, and scratched at throughout the next couple years. There are many things that are not remotely romantic, damaging, hurtful things that Katherine does that has insiders trying everything to get rid of that box. They want no reminders of the good. None.
But boxes are my specialty.
It is such a beautiful fantasy.
Such a beautiful place.
Can it really be that harmful?