Good Old Fashioned

Entry by: jaguar

15th June 2016
‘Good old-fashioned fun’, Dan said with no idea of the images that created in Julia’s mind. Straw bales cutting into her legs; the drone of the tractor in the distance; wondering whose blood that was and hoping it was hers. It hadn't been but she'd still been punctured.

‘Fine’, she replied in a high-pitched voice that should have warned him he’d stumbled on one of her pressure points. In her mind they were big, red buttons to be avoided at all costs but Dan said they were imperceptible, as smooth and creamy as her skin that shied away from his hands.

They sat in silence waiting to pull into a field masquerading as a decent car park. The cars were nose to tail, full of a dangerous cocktail of bored and hyperactive kids. Julia glared at the ruts in the parking area ahead. He’d better not scrape the bottom of her car on the way in. He’d better not make her trail round that huge ring watched sheep failing to give birth. She couldn’t be in an enclosed space with that smell. The memories would rise like chloroform, her past would tighten her throat, silencing and suffocating her.

‘I thought it would be a nice surprise for you.’ Dan turned towards her.

Julia tilted her chin away from him. It was certainly a surprise but only because she would never have chosen to come to a farm. If Dan thought she’d go all gooey at the sight of a few lambs frolicking he didn’t know her at all. This just confirmed what she’d long suspected. Her husband spent no time at all thinking about her feelings, her needs. She was as alone in life now as she’d ever been.

So be it. Julia straightened her shoulders and promised herself she’d get through this day without letting Dan know how uncomfortable she was. Like when she was a kid and put up with the hair-pulling, the chinese burns turning her wrists raw. She’d learnt to show no sign the other kids had affected her. She’d taken a savage pride in being the most unrewarding victim of all time.

Dan parked without grounching the car. Julia pursed her lips and followed him into a relentless queue. He already had the money in his hand and she relaxed a little. She quite liked Dan in control mode, it made such a nice change from his natural diffidence. Staring at his back reminded her he was vulnerable too. She could go a little easier on him. He didn’t mean to hurt her and she must be a bit of a minefield at times.

Her granddad used to call her Prickly Princess. He used to fold her into his lap and make her sit there until she stopped fidgeting to get away. He made her accept his touch but with such gentle love she’d enjoyed the game. He said it was like hugging a cactus but he hugged her all the same. Julia’s eyes blurred and she made herself focus on the people around them.

Families with kids. They seemed to be the only couple without offspring. Everywhere she looked people were holding their children’s hands or clutching them to their chests. Everyone was touching except her and Dan. An impulse made her reach for his hand. He turned and grasped hers as if it was an unexpected present.

The queue inched its way towards the turnstyle and then they were in and free. ‘So,’ Dan said pulling her away from the main attraction of the lambing, ‘I figured you’re rather die than do all of the farm stuff.’

Julia stared at him, ‘You’re right but why did you bring me here. It’s a working farm, it’s mainly farm stuff.’

Dan laughed. ‘True but I needed to know something.’

Did he mean to confuse her? She already felt wrong-footed, as if she was stumbling over the ground. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I needed to know if you’d trust me enough to come.’

‘To be honest it was a close run thing. I've told you how all this makes me feel.’

‘Yes I’m sorry but I had to know.’

She raised her eyebrows at him, equally annoyed and relieved. ‘You brought me here to test me?’

‘Not just that, no. I brought you here because I think you’re denying a part of yourself that would give you great pleasure.’

She shuddered, praying he wasn’t going to start on about her inability to relax in intimate situations. Not now, not in broad daylight. She looked at him, as he waited for her answer. Her voice squeezed out of her throat, tight and thin. ‘Which part?’

He pulled her away from the crowds. ‘I’ll show you.’

At least the creatures they passed were more exotic farm animals, nothing like the sheep they’d had at her parents' farm. There were llamas, goats, miniature pigs and ostriches. Julia pointed and laughed along with the kids as the mini pigs mock fought. Dan squeezed her hand and pulled her away.

‘But I liked the pigs.’

‘You can come back to them. I want you to see feeding time in the next zone. Close your eyes.’

She didn’t want to but Dan looked so expectant she felt she must. Julia had a sudden vision of an amphitheatre full of naked humans in pens being thrown pork chops as they cavorted and played tricks for their food. She felt nauseous as if all the substance from her legs had shot into her throat. She didn’t think she could keep walking, not sure where they were going or why he didn’t want her to see.

‘Open them.’

Julia clutched at the railing around the enclosure to steady herself and peered into the pen. At first she saw nothing at all but then there was a suggestion of movement. A keeper at the far end threw what looked like crab claws into the pond. A brown arrow shot through the water and surfaced under the food juggling it in its back paws. ‘Otters!’

Dan put his arm around her shoulder as Julia clasped her hands together then clapped as a second otter appeared. She was entranced by their exuberance, how they delighted in their food and chased each other around and around. She watched them for more than an hour before she turned to a smiling Dan. ‘What did you mean I’m denying part of myself?’

His face shadowed. ‘I just thought you avoided all animals because some animals reminded you of things you’d rather forget. You assume every person wants to hurt you because someone once did.’

She wrinkled her nose. ‘Well you know – defence mechanisms.’

‘It’s quite hard to love a woman in a cage.’

Did Dan really think she'd built a cage around her to protect herself? How could he get it so wrong? It was to keep her in, to stop her hurting anyone else. 'I let the lamb die.'

'What lamb?'

'On the farm. I was meant to be helping and I couldn't. The lamb died because of me.'

'You were a kid. You couldn't be expected to save it.'

'I was ten years old. Dad said that was old enough. My arm was small enough to reach the lamb, to turn it around.' Julia said but Dan didn't get it, she could see. He didn't know what had gone through her head back then. He didn't understand that, sometimes, the best way of loving somebody is to keep them at a distance.