Trembling, she lay back down.
The room was like the bottom of a cool well all night and she lay in it like a white stone in a well, enjoying it, floating in the dark yet clear element of half dreams and half wakening. She felt the breath move in small jets from her nostrils and she felt the immense sweep of her eyelids shutting and opening again and again. And at last she felt the fever brought into her room by the presence of the sun beyond the hills.
Morning, she thought. It might be a special day. After all, it’s my birthday. Anything might happen. And I hope it does.
The air moved the white curtains like a summer breath.
“Vinia … ?”
A voice was calling. But it couldn’t be a voice. Yet-Vinia raised herself-there it was again.
“Vinia … ?”
She slipped from bed and ran to the window of her high second-story window.
There on the fresh lawn below, calling up to her in the early hour, stood James Conway, no older than she, seventeen, very seriously smiling, waving his hand now as her head appeared.
“Jim, what’re you doing here?” she said, and thought, Does he know what day this is?
“I’ve been up an hour already,” he replied. “I’m going for a walk, starting early, all day. Want to come along?”
Oh but I couldn’t … my folks won’t be back till late tonight, I’m alone, I’m supposed to stay …”
She saw the green hills beyond the town and the roads leading out into summer, leading out into August and rivers and places beyond this town and this house and this room and this particular moment.
“I can’t go …” she said faintly.
“I can’t hear you!” he protested mildly, smiling up at her under a shielding hand.
“Why did you ask me to walk with you, and not someone else?”
He considered this for a moment. “I don’t know,” he admitted. He thought it over again, and gave her his most pleasant and agreeable look. “Because, that’s all, just because.”
“I’ll be down,” she said.
“Hey!” he said.
But the window was empty.
They stood in the center of the perfect, jeweled lawn, over which one set of prints, hers, had run, leaving marks, and another, his, had walked in great slow strides to meet them. The town was silent as a stopped clock. All the shades were still down.
“My gosh,” said Vinia, “it’s early. It’s crazy-early. I’ve never been up this early and out this early in years. Listen to everyone sleeping.”
They listened to the trees and the whiteness of the houses in this early whispering hour, the hour when mice went back to sleep and flowers began untightening their bright fists.
“Which way do we go?”
“Pick a direction.”
Vinia closed her eyes, whirled, and pointed blindly. “Which way am I pointing?”
She opened her eyes. “Lefts go north out of town, then. I don’t suppose we should.”
And they walked out of town as the sun rose above the hills and the grass burned greener on the lawns.
There was a smell of hot chalk highway, of dust and sky and waters flowing in a creek the color of grapes. The sun was a new lemon. The forest lay ahead with shadows stirring like a million birds under each tree, each bird a leaf-darkness, trembling. At noon, Vinia and James Conway had crossed vast meadows that sounded brisk and starched underfoot. The day had grown warm, as an iced glass of tea grows warm, the frost burning off, left in the sun.
They picked a handful of grapes from a wild barbed-wire vine. Holding them up to the sun, you could see the clear grape thoughts suspended in the dark amber fluid, the little hot seeds of contemplation stored from many afternoons of solitude and plant philosophy. The grapes tasted of fresh, clear water and something that they had saved from the morning dews and the evening rains. They were the warmed-over flesh of April ready now, in August, to pass on their simple gain to any passing stranger. And the lesson was this; sit in the sun, head down, within a prickly vine, in flickery light or open light, and the world will come to you. The sky will come in its time, bringing rain, and the earth will rise through you, from beneath, and make you rich and make you full.